In Short

Oregon cities get federal money for cleanup, reuse of contaminated land

By: - May 12, 2022 3:51 pm

The vacant Markwardt Brothers Garage in Chiloquin today. The city will get $500,000 from EPA to clean the site up of hazardous auto chemicals. (Courtesy, City of Chiloquin)

Eight Oregon communities will share in $4.4 million from the federal Environmental Protection Agency to clean up contaminated buildings and industrial sites. 

The money comes from the EPA’s  Brownfields Program. These are sites across the country where communities haven’t been able to expand or create development projects because of contamination such as asbestos, lead and hazardous waste.

EPA estimates there are more than 450,000 such sites in the U.S. There are 474 current and former brownfield sites in Oregon, according to the state Department of Environmental Quality. 

Most of Oregon’s recipients will use the money to survey and study their contaminated sites. Clatsop County, Hillsboro, Lincoln City, Portland, Rogue Valley Council of Governments and Tillamook County will each get $500,000. 

The city of Chiloquin will get $500,000 to clean up a vacant 1929 Markwardt Brothers automotive garage so it can be used for another purpose. Though it also served as a second-hand store in the 1960s and a wood products store in the 1980s, it suffers from contamination left over from its days as a garage, when there weren’t many regulations around the storage and disposal of oil and auto chemicals, according to the city’s grant application. 

At least $1.5 million of the money coming to Oregon’s brownfield sites comes from the Infrastructure and Investment act passed by Congress in November, which included $1.5 billion to “advance environmental justice, spur economic revitalization, and create jobs by cleaning up contaminated, polluted, or hazardous Brownfield properties,” according to EPA. More than 80% of that funding will go to historically underserved areas.

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Alex Baumhardt
Alex Baumhardt

Alex Baumhardt has been a national radio producer focusing on education for American Public Media since 2017. She has reported from the Arctic to the Antarctic for national and international media, and from Minnesota and Oregon for The Washington Post. She previously worked in Iceland and Qatar and was a Fulbright scholar in Spain where she earned a master's degree in digital media. She's been a kayaking guide in Alaska, farmed on four continents and worked the night shift at several bakeries to support her reporting along the way.