TERRE HAUTE —
Clay County Commissioners are hoping to land a federal grant that would help the county identify and define brownfield properties that can be remediated and redeveloped.
The board of commissioners Wednesday approved an agreement with West Central Indiana Economic Development Corp. to apply for a $400,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Brownfield Assessment Grant.
The grant, if awarded, would not require matching funds, said Jim Coffenberry, economic specialist with WCIEDD. Coffenberry told commissioners he will next seek approval from the city of Brazil to join the grant application as a brownfields coalition. The grant is to be submitted in the fall, with the EPA announcing grant recipients in 2014.
“The biggest problem is that it is about impossible to get an option on land for a reasonable amount,” Coffenberry said after the meeting. “We have got to find something for Clay County to be able to market” for industrial and business development.
Coffenberry said a major hindrance to economic growth is the prevalence of vacant buildings or lots in various stages of dilapidation. Often the sites are not developed for fear of potential environmental issues from past land uses.
The brownfield grant would allow the county and Brazil to use grant funds for Phase 1 and Phase 2 environmental site assessments, which show what if any contaminants are on a property and help remediate any contaminants.
That can help return property to county tax roles, Coffenberry said.
One potential area is the former Arketex Ceramic Corp plant, a 60-acre former industrial site on the north side of Brazil. Clay County in 2007 received a $27,000 grant for two environmental assessment studies on the property, where ceramic glazed tiles and glazed bricks were produced until the plant closed in the 1970s.
As a result, asbestos, which had insulated some of the brick kilns, was abated. The site in the 1990s also had tires removed, Coffenberry added. However, to market the site for development in the near future, new environmental studies are needed, he said.
Coffenberry said he plans to work with officials to locate brownfield sites throughout the county for the grant application. Coffenberry said one project could be removing or filling in at least six former fuel tanks that rest under roads in Center Point.
A brownfields coalition in 2009, comprised of Clay, Putnam, Sullivan, Vermillion and Vigo counties, received $894,000 in EPA brownfields grants, which led to 28 Phase 1 environmental assessments and 21 Phase 2 assessments, plus six remedial action plans, Coffenberry said.
In addition, 25 underground tanks were removed from various sites. In Clay County, environmental studies cleared the path for demolition of the former Vanes Boilerworks, a site that could be developed into housing, Coffenberry said. Other projects from that funding removed fuel tanks and led to the demolition of a former Clay County jail in 2011.
Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@