EPA recognition bolsters local sustainable use and re-use

The Environmental Protection Agency recently awarded several local efforts with grant money and recognition. Earlier this month, both the city of Kansas City, Missouri, and the Mid-America Regional Council have been granted a total of $1.4 million in Brownfields Programs funding for cleanup planning and assessment within our region.

The funds are part of a larger national program spending $65.6 million across 155 grants for brownfields cleanup and assessment that will span dozens of census tracts, including some of Kansas City’s 35 qualified opportunity zones (economically distressed communities offering tax incentives for investors). Between the KCMO and MARC grants, funding will be spread across both sides of the river and in Missouri and Kansas.

“Reclaiming these underutilized sites and putting them back to good use will benefit the community and its residents, our economy, and our environment,” said EPA Region 7 Administrator Jim Gulliford.

A brownfield site is a property whose potential for revitalization is complicated by hazardous contaminants like oil and industrial byproducts in the ground. Cleanup of these sites can be expensive for a single developer, but public/private partnerships and the leveraging of relatively small amounts of federal funding have allowed projects under the EPA’s Brownfields Program to create more than 160,000 jobs since the program’s inception in 1995.

Additionally, projects have been shown to double, triple and, in some cases, return seven times the EPA’s initial investment through local tax revenues just one year after cleanup. In the same period of time, property values of homes near cleanup sites increased between 5% and 15%.

Kansas City, Missouri, Brownfields Grant

The city of Kansas City, Missouri, and its coalition with Jackson County in Missouri and the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kansas, were awarded an $800,000 Revolving Loan Fund for cleanup activities.

Brownfields funding has been previously used to create new affordable housing and jobs in Kansas City at the Gateway at 39th development, the DeLaSalle Education Center and the Aldi store at Prospect Avenue.

“Environmental sustainability is key to the future development of any city and the long term health of its residents,” said Missouri U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver. “Targeting qualified opportunities zones will facilitate equitable development in areas that need it most.”

Mid-America Regional Council Brownfields Grant

The Brownfields Assessment Coalition Grant awarded to the Mid-America Regional Council will supplement local cleanup efforts with 15 Phase I and 12 Phase II environmental site assessments, as well as four risk assessments, four cleanup plans, and support community engagement. Sites include those near communities along Blue River industrial districts in Jackson County; Prospect and Independence Ave in Kansas City, Missouri; and neighborhoods bordering Quindaro Boulevard in Kansas City, Kansas.

“Grant funds will facilitate the sustainable reuse of properties in diverse communities around the Kansas City region,” said MARC Environmental Program Director Tom Jacobs. “This initiative will be integral to fostering higher levels of regional collaboration in service of long term sustainability and resilience goals.”

Food Waste Recovery Award Recognition

Late last month, the EPA also awarded the Mid-America Regional Council Solid Waste Management District its 2019 Food Recovery Challenge Regional Award, along with two grade school programs in Johnson County, Kansas. Organizations recognized pledge to improve their sustainable food management practices and report results to the EPA.

“Reducing wasted food is a triple win: it’s good for the environment, for communities and for the economy,” said MARC Solid Waste Program Manager Lisa McDaniel.

Food waste is the single largest type of waste thrown away each year in our daily trash. In 2017, more than 40 million tons of food waste was generated. Efforts to repurpose unused food can help go towards feeding the approximately 11% of America’s households that had difficulty providing enough food for their family in 2018.

Over 1,000 businesses, governments and organizations participated in EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge in 2019. Participants prevented over 815,000 tons of food from entering landfills, saving participants up to $42.3 million in avoided landfill tipping fees.

MARC Solid Waste Management has been serving food waste information to its five Missouri counties and 80 municipalities through social media and its RecycleSpot website. Messaging is also promoted beyond the district to MARC’s greater nine-county bistate region. In 2019, MARC helped coordinate the annual Missouri Recycling Association Conference, where two sessions on food waste drew dozens of attendees and provided a platform for the Food Recovery Challenge with a regional recognition awards event.