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Kentucky receiving $8M to clean up contaminated industrial, commercial properties 

 A brownfield site in Louisville.
Ryan Van Velzer
/
LPM
A brownfield site in Louisville's Germantown.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is giving Kentucky nearly $8 million this year to assess and clean up polluted industrial and commercial properties known as “brownfields.”

In total, the EPA is distributing grants ranging from $500,000 to nearly $2 million to clean up 10 sites around Kentucky.

They include renovations at downtown buildings, former gas stations, and vacant factories in communities stretching from Caldwell County in western Kentucky to Ashland in eastern Kentucky.

State Environment Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Goodman met with EPA officials and Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg for the announcement at the Lynn Family Soccer Stadium in Louisville, which is a redeveloped industrial site itself.

“It’s important to us to get out there and really work on some of these communities and try and bring these lands into some kind of productive use,” Goodman said.

State officials estimate there are at least 3,000 known, active brownfields that were once home to businesses and industry, but are now vacant and polluted. They said there are likely thousands more unidentified sites. That environmental legacy is the footprint of Kentucky’s former industrial might in the coal and steel industries that helped the country prosper amid and after two world wars, Goodman said.

Local, state and federal officials announced nearly $8 million in funding for Kentucky from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Monday July 31, 2023, in Louisville.
Ryan Van Velzer
/
LPM
Local, state and federal officials announced nearly $8 million in funding for Kentucky from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Monday July 31, 2023, in Louisville.

But it’s also part of the history of Kentucky’s small towns where downtown buildings can sit vacant for decades because the funding isn’t available to clean up the lead and asbestos leftover from previous generations of construction.

Some of the grant funding will go toward assessing the environmental problems. For example, the city of Beatyville is receiving nearly $500,000 to study a two-story structure built in 1939 previously used as a city hall, jail and firehouse.

Other funding will go directly toward cleanup, like the nearly $1 million grant OakPointe Centre, Inc. in Somerset is receiving to rehab a 144,000-square-foot sewing factory and warehouse built in 1946.

Amanda LeFevre with the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection said the additional funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is transformational for the state.

“Never have I seen the amount of money out there that you can apply for, but also the support, because they know a lot of the communities that are applying are disadvantaged,” LeFevre said.

Below is a full list of projects receiving EPA funding from the Energy and Environment Cabinet:

  • Frontier Housing, Inc., Morehead, Ky. – A $1,999,900 EPA Cleanup Grant to remediate the Hayswood Hospital building in Maysville. The hospital closed in 1983 and has remained vacant. Frontier Housing, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing affordable housing, plans to renovate the building into residential space. 
  • OakPointe Centre, Inc., Somerset, Ky. – A $999,821 EPA Cleanup Grant to remediate the former Palm Beach factory, a 144,000-square-foot sewing factory and warehouse structure in Somerset that was originally built in 1946.
  • Caldwell County Board of Education – A $499,900 EPA Cleanup Grant to remove hazardous materials from an annex building prior to its demolition and reconstruction as a space for recreation and community programming.
  • City of Beattyville – A $499,939 EPA Cleanup Grant to remediate a two-story structure in downtown Beattyville originally built in 1939 and previously used as a city hall, jail and firehouse.
  • Big Sandy Area Development District – A $500,000 EPA Community-wide Assessment Grant to inventory, prioritize and conduct environmental site assessments in the city of Prestonsburg. Grant funds also will be used to prepare eight cleanup plans and to conduct community engagement activities including developing a Community Involvement Plan.
  • Carroll County – A $500,000 EPA Community-wide Assessment Grant to inventory, conduct environmental assessments and develop cleanup plans for sites in Carroll County. Priority sites include the site of the former Carrollton Furniture Factory, a five-acre property located within the city’s historic district and a 58-acre site on Highway 227 with multiple violations for unauthorized dumping.
  • City of Ashland – A $500,000 EPA Community-wide Assessment Grant to inventory sites, conduct environmental assessments, develop cleanup plans and support community outreach activities in the City of Ashland’s historic riverfront district. Priority sites include a former hardware store and warehouse, automotive repair shop, commercial storefront, radiator and auto body repair shop, motorcycle repair and paint shop, dry cleaner and three former gas stations.
  • Green River Area Development District – A $500,000 EPA Community-wide Assessment Grant to inventory, conduct environmental assessments, develop site cleanup plans and support community outreach activities in the Green River region. The target areas for this grant are the cities of Providence and Sebree. Priority sites include former auto shops, two coal mines, a clothing factory, a gas station and several vacant commercial buildings in various states of deterioration.
Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter. Email Ryan at rvanvelzer@lpm.org.