Naked City

Austin receives EPA Brownfield grant

The city of Austin was among five Texas awardees to benefit from $1.2 million in Brownfield grants from the Environmental Protection Agency. Austin will receive $200,000 to conduct environmental assessments of 19 abandoned underground petroleum tanks in "target communities" within a 4.2-mile radius of Riverside Drive, I-35, Manor Road, and Airport Boulevard. A brownfield is defined as a site that may face expansion, redevelopment, or reuse challenges because of hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants. The EPA Web site says, of Austin, "The city is committed to redevelopment that will contribute to a sustainable community, particularly in relation to transit-oriented development that will serve the recently approved commuter rail system."

City of Austin Brownfields Program Officer Catherine Esparza said that once ongoing redevelopment projects on East 11th and 12th are complete, the Brownfields Program will shift its focus toward the petroleum tank cleanup project. Most of the tanks are left over from former gas stations and are not usually highly contaminated, she said. The 19 facilities in the target communities represent a small portion of the 88 questionable facilities identified citywide. Esparza said the city began an underground petroleum storage registration program in 1985. In 2004, the city inventoried about 1,500 facilities, classifying 88 as potential contamination hazards. Past Brownfields Program projects include the Eastside's Plaza Saltillo and Springdale Park, as well as current redevelopment on East 11th and 12th. "The Brownfields Program is part of a big picture driving projects forward by ensuring they're properly assessed and cleaned up in a timely fashion," Esparza said.

In December, East Austin's Rhizome Collective, a consensus-run center for urban sustainability, received a $100,000 EPA grant to clean up a 9.8-acre brownfield in the Montopolis neighborhood. Rhizome plans to transform the property into an environmental education park to complement the adjacent 360-acre Colorado River Park. To learn more, see www.cityofaustin.org/watershed/brownfields.htm, www.epa.gov/brownfields/05grants/austin.htm, www.rhizomecollective.org/brownfield.html, and "Showing Rhizome the Money," News, Dec. 17, 2004.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

environment, Environmental Protection Agency, Catherine Esparza, Plaza Saltillo, Springdale Park, 11th Street, 12th Street, Rhizome Collective

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