Cleaning house

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 16, 2006

City to use EPA grant to assess environmental problems

By George L. Jones

The Selma Times-Journal

Selma was one of three Alabama cities to receive a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Grant for revitalization.

During a ceremony held in Tarrant Friday, Selma, Tuscaloosa and Tarrant each were awarded Brownfield Grants in the amount of $200,000.

A brownfield is a term the EPA uses to describe areas where the presence or potential presence of hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants may hinder expansion, redevelopment or reuse.

It is the hope of the city that the affected sites can be used once again and help local industry.

“Assessment is probably the most important thing because it gives information as to where the needs are,” said Selma Planning Director Charlotte Griffeth. “We want to ensure the sustainable re-use of the areas. If there are issues, we want to go in and do cleanup and continue to inform involved parties, such as property owners, and work with them.”

The grant will be used solely to fund assessment. One of the main areas of focus is the riverfront district and a lot of the properties in the area.

Several of the buildings previously contained businesses, and once the assessment is done, other businesses may locate there in the future.

The grant will help provide positive economic growth for the city.

“We pledge to continue our open and honest communications with both federal and state environmental regulatory agencies,” Mayor James Perkins Jr. said in an earlier statement. “We pledge to remain focused on our mission that is stated in our grant application, I want to thank the team of people who worked on the grant application within the city of Selma’s Planning and Development Department and Honorable Artur Davis, congressman for the 7th District, for his unwavering support.”

Davis added that the grant’s long-term effects will greatly help Selma’s growth.

“This is a wonderful moment in Selma’s continuing efforts to prepare their community for further economic development” Davis stated. “This grant from the EPA will allow the city to conduct further investigations concerning the re-development and sustainability of brownfields in the community which will benefit all of Selma. We are pleased to have been a part of working to bring this grant to Selma, and we are always appreciative of the partnership forged between my office and Mayor Perkins.”

The project started back in 2001 when a Brownfield Grant was also awarded the city. Selma has employed the help of the EPA, Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) and DHL Analytical Laboratories, Inc.

The city has been and will continue to work especially closely with Birmingham-based DHL.

“We will conduct outreach and Phase I and Phase II assessments,” said DHL consultant Debra Love. “Phase I will involve a literature search. We will find out anything that the property was used for. Phase II will involve collecting soil and water samples, and in some cases, we collect air samples. When we do outreach, we help people understand the process and how important it is.”

Love projected the process will take about two years, which is typical for such projects. In some instances, it can last as long as three years.

In Selma’s case, the biggest problem for its environment is the accumulation of time.

“Selma is a very old city. It was established in 1820,” Griffeth said. “There is a lot of old property that needs to be assessed. I think they gave it to the cities that most needed the grant.”