EPA awards $500K to City of Mason City to use for Brownfields Assessment Grant

MASON CITY — The Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday awarded $500,000 to the city of Mason City to use for a Brownfields Assessment Grant. The grant will be used to conduct 23 environmental site assessments, with the priority sites including a blighted strip mall, a nine-acre vacant site that formerly manufactured steel doors, and a half-acre vacant site that once housed a foundry.

EPA Region 7 Land, Chemical and Redevelopment Division Director Jeff Robichaud tells KGLO News that the Brownfields program allows communities to examine land that might be contaminated in an effort to remediate it for future development.   “Give it a clean bill of health. If it’s a good property without contamination that can be put back into redevelopment. Sometimes there’s contamination at these properties, so the other part of our program is after we’ve assessed the property, helping to clean it up. This program is all about giving the resources to the community that have the need and being able to help them turn portions of their community that might have been eyesores back into real gems in the community.”

Robichaud says the ultimate goal is to get those properties back to a point where the city can promote them for redevelopment.  “This is a fantastic example of how Environmental Protection and economic development can go hand in hand. What we see is the payback on this type of effort, we put money into the community to get sites assessed and cleaned up, then when we get new business and new redevelopment in, it really pays back in the terms of jobs into that community, or resources coming into the community. Even residential properties close to the redevelopment can go up in price.”

A check presentation ceremony was held Wednesday afternoon at the construction site of “The River II” apartment complex that is being constructed in downtown Mason City. Robichaud says the project is a great example of a Brownfield site being redeveloped.