State to get $2 million to clean up port area Brownfield sites may later draw businesses

The port

January 16, 1998|By Suzanne Wooton | Suzanne Wooton,SUN STAFF

Maryland will receive $2 million in federal funds to clean up contaminated and abandoned sites around the port of Baltimore, state and federal officials are expected to announce today.

The grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will be targeted at so-called brownfield sites that ultimately could be used to attract new businesses such as warehouses and light manufacturing.

There are more than 900 brownfield sites in the Baltimore area -- two-thirds of them around the port. Last year, a gubernatorial task force, headed by port businessman S. A."Skip" Brown, evaluated vacant land and found that nearly 2,000 acres of waterfront and water accessible land are underutilized and could be developed.

"We wanted to be able to jump start the implementation of the Brown report," Maryland Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski said yesterday. "We will be able to point to this area as a model."

A national brownfields program falls under the jurisdiction of the Environmental Protection Agency, which has budgeted $65 million this year for the program. Recently, Empower Baltimore Management Corp., a nonprofit corporation which manages the city's $100 million federal empowerment zone fund, offered $3 million in loans and grants to developers and landowners to clean up contaminated properties.

The $2 million grant is a special appropriation under HUD. According to Mikulski, President Clinton will talk about coordinating EPA and HUD brownfields efforts when he submits his budget next month.

Brownfields are not nearly as contaminated as Superfund sites. Still, because the level of contamination is often unknown and the costs of environmental testing for oil or metals in the soil so high, it is often prohibitive to redevelop brownfields.

A state law that took effect last year reduced prospective purchasers' future liability for previous contamination.

"Because of the Brown task force report and state legislation, we already had public-private partnership so we could move faster than any other state in the union," said Mikuski.

She predicted that the $2 million grant will generate 200 jobs or more.

During today's announcement at the World Trade Center, Gov. Parris N. Glendening is expected to identify sites that might be redeveloped with the HUD grant. The land use task force was part of Glendening's Smart Growth program.

Legislation will be introduced in the General Assembly this session to establish an advisory council to help attract businesses to the targeted areas.

Pub Date: 1/16/98

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