Great Barrington — It was a “great” day for Great Barrington.
The town hit something of a jackpot when Great Barrington officials learned Wednesday morning that they had received a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to clean up the former Ried Cleaners property.
At a telephone news conference on Wednesday, May 6, the EPA announced that six Massachusetts municipalities would receive grants from the EPA’s Brownfields program, which provides communities across New England and the nation with funding to assess underutilized and possibly contaminated properties that are being considered for redevelopment.
“We’re really thrilled to receive this grant and looking forward to partnering further with the EPA, and kick-starting development at this end of Main Street,” Chris Rembold, Great Barrington’s town planner and assistant town manager, told those who had phoned in to listen to the announcement made at the EPA regional office in Boston.
In 2015, the town applied for and received a grant of $91,000 allocated from the Brownfield Assessment Program by MassDevelopment, the state’s finance and development agency. The money was used primarily to assess the extent of the contamination, which was caused primarily by dry cleaning solvents. The state Department of Environmental Protection also performed an investigation. The upshot was that the price tag for the clean-up was in the neighborhood of $1 million.
At that time, the town had received a number of inquiries about the availability of property, which is viewed by retailers as desirable because of its downtown location.
“It’s a site that’s had so much interest over the years, but interested developers have just walked away,” Rembold explained. “And now we’re able to attack the contamination here, get rid of it, really clean up the site for the public health and economic development benefit for our town.”
Half a million, of course, is well shy of a million. In response to a reporter’s question, Rembold said the previous assessment grant helped the town “limit and determine the extent of the contamination and that will give us the final cost.
“We’re also actively working with Mass DEP and the EPA and hoping that we are able to do some additional actions to remove some of the existing contamination onsite, so perhaps even before we get started with this activity under this particular grant, that $1 million cost will come down,” Rembold said. “I’m hopeful for that.”
Rembold told The Edge that the assessment work under the previous grant would be completed at the end of this calendar year, and clean-up work under the EPA grant will begin next year.
For a comprehensive look at the site and its history, click here for an Edge story from last November. Also, see the video below of Rembold and consultant Tom Biolsi explaining the Ried Cleaners situation:
“COVID-19 has impacted the economy and redevelopment in every corner of New England. Today’s investment of EPA Brownfields assessment and cleanup funding provides a much-needed boost for economic development and job creation in many of New England’s hardest hit and underserved communities,” said EPA New England regional administrator Dennis Deziel. “Brownfields projects are always an economic catalyst, and this funding has never been more important to our local partners.”
The Massachusetts-based grantees are among 155 grants that will be awarded for communities and tribes totaling over $65.6 million in EPA Brownfields funding from the agency’s Assessment, Revolving Loan Fund, and Cleanup Grant Programs, the EPA said in a statement before the news conference.