The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded a grant to Wilmington today to clean up and develop former industrial sites.
Brownfields are polluted sites where industrial properties used to stand. There are a few of these sites in Wilmington near the Brandywine River, like a former auto salvage yard at 1400 N. Church St. and East 12th St. and Governor Prince Blvd.
And Secretary Shawn Garvin from the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control said if they can improve these sites, the repurposed land will have numerous benefits for the city.
“It improves the quality of life in the surrounding community, has an economic benefit, has an environmental and public health benefit,” Garvin said. "So, this area-wide planning grant allows the city to kind of figure out how to deal with these brownfields in this area, but it really helps to educate the private sector and government on how we can do this throughout the state."
The EPA gave Wilmington almost $200,000 help clean up these sites and turn them into something productive, much like how the Wilmington Riverfront was repurposed, over the last 20 years, Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki said.
“It was just a wasteland, it looked no better than this, it looked no more promising,” Purzycki said. “Nobody believed we could do anything with it, and today we’ve got everything from residential to restaurants to movie theaters, to employment.”
The Riverfront was also a former industrial site. Since renovations began, it has been transformed from a deserted area of the city to one of its most sought after nightlife and living destinations.
Delaware has received almost $11 million in similar EPA grants since 1997, according to the EPA. Cecil Rodrigues, EPA region three administrator, said this grant is a small amount in the grand scheme of things, but will still give a boost to brownfield cleanup, especially as he said the northeast is running out of clean green fields to develop.
“While it is a significant amount of money, it is not what will lead to the complete cleanup of the property, but what we have learned from brownfields programs is this seed money leads to the leveraging of other dollars,” Rodrigues said. “We look forward to that.”
Updated at 9 a.m. April 21 to include how long Delaware has been receiving brownfield grants for.