University of South Florida received a portion of $3.8 million in U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency funding announced Jan. 5 to help communities plan new uses
for former brownfield sites – land contaminated with hazardous waste or
pollutants, or perceived to be so.
a $200,000 grant to work with the University Area Community Development Corporation
(UACDC) and other organizations to create a strategic plan for addressing
environmental pollution and redevelopment challenges in the University Area
USF was one
of 19 institutions and municipalities – and the only recipient in Florida –
awarded the EPA grants this year to engage the community and conduct planning
activities for cleanup and re-use of brownfield sites. The grant is part the EPA’s Brownfields
Area-Wide Planning Program.
often properties with abandoned, closed or underused industrial or commercial
buildings typically located in poor or underserved communities with limited
access to fresh foods, outdoor recreation and health care.
project will focus on a large community immediately west of the university’s Tampa
campus, with documented brownfields representing former industrial and
manufacturing businesses that resulted in contaminants deposited in subsurface
soil and sediment adjacent to residential neighborhoods. Although the area has been plagued by blight,
decay, poverty and a lack of basic resources for decades, it is poised for positive
change. Efforts by the UACDC and other
organizations have helped increase community engagement and decrease crime, while
more resources are spurring revitalization in the UAC.
organizations, public-private partnerships and governmental agencies have worked
on redevelopment plans incorporating housing, human health, infrastructure and
economic development, but without explicitly addressing environmental health’s integral
role in redevelopment.
E. Christian Wells, PhD, professor of anthropology and director of the USF Center for Brownfields Research and Redevelopment.
is designed to build on existing redevelopment planning efforts and tie them
together with an emphasis on the health of the environment,” said E. Christian
Wells, PhD, professor of anthropology and director of the USF Center for
Brownfields Research and Redevelopment.
“We want to
bring in the voice of community,” said Wells, the project’s lead investigator. “From
some previous research we’ve heard from community members that they don’t want
another gas station or dry cleaner in their neighborhoods; they want healthy
access to community parks and recreation.
“In the end,
we’re hoping to encourage positive policy development and planning to improve
the welfare of community residents, especially children who make up about 35
percent of the University Community Area residents.”
Key partners working with USF, in
addition to UACDC, will include the Florida Brownfields Association, Mort
Elementary School, Environmental Protection Commission of Hillsborough County,
Florida Department of Health-Hillsborough County, Hillsborough County Economic
Development, Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission, Cardno,
Vistra, and BGW Associates.
The project will begin in March 2017 and
last approximately two years. Much of the funding will be used to hire area
residents to help with community planning efforts. Once a successful
development plan has been established, Wells said, the group hopes to be able
to attract significant resources to implement the plan.
For a full
list of this year’s grant awardees
go to the following EPA site: https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-gives-38m-help-19-communities-plan-new-uses-former-brownfield-sites-0
Story by Anne DeLotto Baier