Representatives of seven recipient cities and organizations, and officials with the Environmental Protection Agency and SC Department of Health & Environmental Control joined together in a celebration Wednesday in Clinton.

They celebrated the award of $2.2 million to grant recipients, including the City of Clinton for the first time, in the brownfields eradication project. The term “brownfields” refers to any site that needs to be cleared of contamination before being reused. This reuse can be for new businesses, parks or economic development projects.

“This is one of DHEC’s good news programs,” said Donald Siron, representing SC DHEC.

“Land is a top priority for the EPA,” said Trey Glenn, Region 4 Administrator. “This helps provide the catalyst of economic development.”

Clinton played host to the Brownfields Environmental Assessment, Revolving Loan Fund, and Cleanup Grants award program for South Carolina Wednesday afternoon in front of the MS Bailey Municipal Center, with a reception following in the Textiles Museum inside city hall.

In addition to Clinton, the grant recipients are Aiken, Greenville, Greenwood, Pickens, Pelzer Heritage and Catawba Council of Governments. There are just 144 recipients nationwide in a competitive grant process decided by a national committee. Just 36 percent of grant submissions were approved for award; in SC, that amounts to $2.2 million, and 28 in the Southeast totaling $9 million.

Clinton will use its $300,000 to assess which brownfields need clean-up and adaptive reuse. These could be everything from an abandoned gas station to a closed textile mill.

“You have to begin somewhere,” Mayor Bob McLean said. “This money will add to our tax base, produce jobs, enhance the environment, and protect our citizens.”

The Brownfields Program targets communities that are economically disadvantaged and provides funding and assistance to transform blighted sites into assets that can generate jobs and spur economic growth, according to the EPA and SC DHEC.

A study analyzing 48 brownfields sites found that an estimated $29 million to $97 million in additional tax revenue was generated for local governments in a single year after cleanup. This is two to seven times more than the $12.4 million EPA contributed to the cleanup of these brownfield sites. Another study found that property values of homes located near brownfields sites that are cleaned up increased between 5 and 15 percent after cleanup.

“EPA’s Brownfields Program expands the ability of communities to recycle vacant and abandoned properties for new, productive reuses, using existing infrastructure," EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in a news release. "These grants leverage other public and private investments and improve local economies through property cleanup and redevelopment.”

Clinton was chosen for two brownfields assessment grants totaling $300,000 that will provide $200,000 to fund tasks for hazardous substance contamination assessment and $100,000 to fund potential petroleum contamination assessments.

In preparation for this application, personnel from the city met with members of the community to identify several potential brownfield sites impacting the community.

The grant will now allow Clinton to fund the identification, assessment and cleanup planning that will ultimately result in positive redevelopment of brownfield sites that are creating an impediment to economic and community health.

“This aligns well with, and furthers, the City’s 2015 Economic Development Strategic Plan, which recommends recruiting new businesses by mapping Clinton’s under-utilized and vacant properties (i.e. brownfields) to identify opportunities for redevelopment in areas where infrastructure (roads, utilities, and rail) already exist,” said Clinton’s city manager, Bill Ed Cannon.

The city will invite representatives of active community organizations and interested community members to serve on a Brownfields Task Force to build the site inventory, help set priorities, assist with site access, and convey information to the community.

The Task Force will hold regular community meetings to gather input, host educational seminars and workshops, and provide project updates through various sources, such as the City’s website, local churches, and the local media.

The city has a professional services agreement with Cardno, Inc., a professional infrastructure and environmental services company that will work closely with city personnel to develop and implement a work plan for this grant.

In South Carolina, this EPA program has assessed 200 sites, funded 9 clean-ups, readied 49 sites for reuse, made 250 acres useable again, and has been leveraged to produce 14,050 jobs.

Nationwide, these grants to local communities have been leveraged to produce $25 billion in new investments.