May 302012

By Teri Walker —

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has earmarked $700,000 for cleaning up contaminated sites and revitalizing communities along Historic Route 66 in northern Arizona, and the City of Holbrook will seek a portion of the funding to tear down derelict buildings and clean up hazardous properties.

The EPA announced late last week that it was awarding $69.3 million for projects in 39 states to provide communities with funding to clean and redevelop contaminated properties, boost local economies and create jobs while protecting public health.

Holbrook joined forces with Flagstaff and other communities along Route 66 to request $1 million of the funding. The EPA decided to award the coalition $400,000 to address hazardous substances and $300,000 for petroleum contamination.

The money will be used to assess 76 sites with varying levels of contaminants along Historic Route 66.

City Manager Ray Alley says he hopes to get a portion of the funding to tear down a derelict city-owned building near the Holbrook Cemetery. While the abatement project will address safety and environmental concerns associated with the building, it would also provide room for the city to expand the cemetery, allowing it to accept burials for an additional 10 to 20 years.

Alley says the city would also like to secure funds to tear down a dilapidated and crumbling house in the 100 block of East Hopi Drive. The home is one of the earliest houses built in Holbrook in the 1800s, but the structure has fallen into such a state of disrepair that it poses a significant safety hazard.

The City of Holbrook’s ongoing abatement program is aimed at tearing down hazardous or unsightly buildings, clearing abandoned properties, removing environmental and safety hazards, and making properties available and attractive for residential and commercial redevelopment.

“Restored Brownfield properties can serve as cornerstones for rebuilding struggling communities. These grants will be the first step in getting pollution out and putting jobs back into neighborhoods across the country,” said EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. “Clean, healthy communities are places where people want to live, work and start businesses. We’re providing targeted resources to help local partners transform blighted, contaminated areas into centers of economic growth.”

The city participated with Flagstaff, Navajo County, Coconino County and Winslow to develop the grant application that was submitted to the EPA in November. The coalition agreed that if the application was successful, the City of Flagstaff would administer the grant. Coalition members will now apply to grant administrators to secure funding for projects in their area of influence.

The EPA says there are an estimated 450,000 abandoned and contaminated waste sites in America. Since its inception, the grant program has resulted in more than 18,000 properties being assessed and over 700 properties have been cleaned up.

Brownfields grants also target underserved and low-income neighborhoods, the EPA says, aiming to serve places where environmental cleanups and new jobs are most needed.