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State awards $20 million to redevelop contaminated sites

Brownfield sites are former industrial or commercial sites with known or suspected contamination.
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Brownfield sites are former industrial or commercial sites with known or suspected contamination.

The state of Michigan is awarding over $20 million dollars in funding to help clean up contaminated sites for local redevelopment.

67 brownfield sites - like former gas stations or vacant industrial plants - are receiving loans and grants from the state. The funding is part of a program that aims to invest in communities and revitalize sites with suspected contamination.

Carrie Geyer is with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. She said the brownfield program has economic, environmental, and social benefits to communities.

“These properties, especially in small communities, they're usually located right in the center of everything,” Geyer said. “If there's a way we can take away some of the stigma and address some of the issues, so that they can be re-utilized, it's wonderful.”

Geyer said state funding primarily helps developers address contamination and ideally make the property a “clean slate” for development.

One community, the Village of Sebewaing, is receiving nearly $400,000 dollars to transform a vacant gas station into a Frankenmuth Credit Union.

Carl Osentoski is the director of the Huron County Economic Development Corporation. He said without the grant, it’s possible the site on the town’s high-traffic corner would never have been developed.

“If we can show activity, it gets the community engaged,” Osentoski said. “It shows the Village of Sebewaing is making great progress on using these legacy sites on new development that will bring more jobs and tax base to the community.”

Osentoski said the redevelopment authority will now be able to remove contaminated soil and install a system to prevent potential exposure to toxic vapors.

Teresa Homsi is an environmental reporter and Report for America Corps Member based in northern Michigan for WCMU. She covers rural environmental issues, focused on contamination, conservation, and climate change.