It’s no secret that Pittsburgh’s industrial past has resulted in environmental contamination along its waterfronts, in areas which have been dubbed “brownfield” sites.
But Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said there are brownfields embedded in neighborhoods too.
“My dad’s Uncle Lou had the Texaco station down at Frankstown (Avenue) and Wheeler (Street), that sits there because it used to have gas tanks under it,” Peduto said. “We can clean it up and we can make it a place where there will be a new business, where there will be new homes.”
The site of that old Texaco station may one day benefit from a grant program administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which on Monday announced it has awarded $400,000 to the North Side Industrial Development Company to assess brownfield sites in Western Pennsylvania.
EPA Mid-Atlantic regional administrator Shawn Garvin made the announcement at the Homewood Station Senior Apartments, an affordable housing facility built on a former brownfield site with the help of EPA dollars.
In the last 10 years, NSIDC has nabbed $5 million in EPA grants to assess and clean up environmental contamination on brownfield sites, more than any other organization in the Mid-Atlantic region.
Nationwide, the federal program has distributed $23 million to remediate more than 1200 sites since its inception in 1995. That same year marked the creation of the state brownfield program, which Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Quigley said has led to the rehabilitation of 5400 properties and $620 million in state investment.
“All those numbers, as big as they are and as significant as they are, really don’t add up to a lot until you consider the folks seated here before us,” Quigley said. “The residents of this community who are benefiting from a beautiful new facility, which by the way has geothermal heating and is going for LEED certification.”
Quigley and Garvin both said the development that occurs on former brownfield sites is often cleaner and greener than previous buildings, and that the Homewood Station Senior Apartments is no exception.
Peduto and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said replacing brownfield sites with environmentally friendly developments will prove to be a key part of Pittsburgh’s continued revitalization.
Fitzgerald said state and federal dollars help spur interest in development on sites that might otherwise be too costly to clean up.
“All we need is a little bit of leverage to be able to move it forward,” he said. “When we clean up the brownfield sites, the private sector comes rushing in because the market is there.”