Lenexa, Kan. -- Dozens of underused or abandoned properties compromised by hazardous wastes or petroleum contamination in a 15-county area of northwest Missouri and northeast Kansas may be eligible for environmental redevelopment funding – and approximately 40 local residents will receive special training and placement assistance into environmental jobs – all as a result of $1.2 million in new EPA grants to the region, officials announced today.
The grants, including $1 million from EPA’s Brownfields Assessment, Revolving Loan Fund and Cleanup (ARC) competition, and $200,000 from EPA’s Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training (EWDJT) program, will be administered locally by the Mo-Kan Regional Council, of St. Joseph, Mo.
“Through the good work of Mo-Kan, its staff and its partner agencies, these funds will have direct, profound and positive impact on communities in and around the Midland Empire,” EPA Region 7 Administrator Karl Brooks said. “Brownfields properties will be cleaned up and returned to productive use, and local residents will get job training and placement assistance in meaningful, sustainable environmental career positions.”
Brooks pointed out that the two EPA grants relate directly to three of EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy’s top priorities for the Agency’s work: making a visible difference in communities, taking action on toxics and chemical safety, and launching a new era of state and local partnerships.
The $1 million Brownfields ARC grant will establish a revolving loan fund from which Mo-Kan will provide loans and subgrants to eligible entities to support cleanup activities, community engagement and cleanup planning. The grant includes $573,100 for work on properties affected by hazardous substances, and $426,900 for work on petroleum-contaminated properties.
The $200,000 Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training grant will allow Mo-Kan, working with its partners, to train approximately 40 low-income unemployed and underemployed individuals in environmental work, including 20 trained for environmental remediation, and 20 who will receive specialized training for wastewater treatment or collection systems operations. Mo-Kan’s goal is to place at least 30 program graduates in sustainable employment positions, working locally.
“Mo-Kan works with a variety of economic development, community-based organizations, business owners, lenders and employers,” noted Mo-Kan’s executive director, Tom Bliss. “A common need shared by each of these is access to good jobs, a trained workforce and quality of life. EPA has provided a vital, locally-controlled resource to address these concerns.”
As a designated regional planning commission and economic development district recognized by the states of Kansas and Missouri and the federal government, the not-for-profit Mo-Kan Regional Council is uniquely qualified to administer the EPA grants to the region, Brooks said. Communities and residents of Andrew, Atchison, Buchanan, Clinton, DeKalb, Gentry, Holt, Nodaway and Worth counties in Missouri; and Atchison, Brown, Doniphan, Jackson, Jefferson and Nemaha counties in Kansas, will be eligible for help from the grants.
Mo-Kan is already aware of nearly 400 potentially eligible Brownfields properties in the 15-county targeted region, including at least 68 flagged properties in downtown St. Joseph alone. Other eligible properties will likely be identified throughout the region as Mo-Kan begins to invite applicants for its loans and subgrants, Bliss said.
The need for more sustainable, well-paying jobs in the region is practically a constant, Bliss said. Mo-Kan will work with the Missouri Department of Economic Development’s St. Joseph Career Center and its staff, along with other partners, to provide the environmental job training.
Mo-Kan will partner with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ (MDNR) Brownfield Voluntary Cleanup Programs to identify and assess sites for cleanup. Mo-Kan’s Brownfield Revolving Loan Fund, funded by the EPA Brownfield ARC grant, will provide cleanup resources for contaminated sites, and EPA’s job training grant will provide funds to train workers for these Brownfield remediation projects.
“A significant problem facing rural America is population loss,” Bliss said. “As families leave, fewer customers patronize restaurants, grocery stores and pharmacies, leading to closures, a weakened tax base and the inability for communities to move forward without help. EPA has stepped up to support our region. We know this project will help reverse this trend by providing resources to small businesses, communities and individuals in a positive way.”