NIAGARA COUNTY, N.Y. (WIVB) – Niagara County will receive  $300,000 total in grant funding from the Environmental Protection Agency to help redevelop vacant and unused brownfield properties.

The county will receive $200,000 to help conduct environmental site assessments for hazardous substances and $100,000 for assessments for petroleum contamination.

Niagara County is one of 172 communities across the country selected to receive brownfield revitalization funding.

According to the New York State Department of Conservation’s website, brownfield sites are defined as “any property where a contaminant is present at levels exceeding the soil cleanup objectives or other health-based or environmental standards by the DEC that are applicable based on the reasonably anticipated use of the property”.

“The EPA is committed to working with communities to redevelop brownfields sites which have plagued their neighborhoods,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said. EPA’s Assessment and Cleanup grants target communities that are economically disadvantaged and include places where environmental cleanup and new jobs are most needed.”

Niagara County maintains a list 338 brownfield sites currently. They include former dry cleaners, paper mills, cold storage facilities, and other manufacturers.

Once the sites are assessed and cleaned up to meet DEC standards, reuse plans can be put in place including the development of new light industrial space, advanced manufacturing, new green industries, or tourism-related development. Studies have shown that property values near cleaned-up brownfield areas increased between 5 percent and more than 15 percent.

Niagara County has received $4.8 million in brownfields grants since 1998. Past assessment work in the county has revealed asbestos, chlorinated solvents, heavy metals, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), petroleum products, radioactive materials, and petroleum-contaminated soil and groundwater.