Esparto, Yolo County’s largest rural unincorporated community, recently received two EPA Brownfields Assessment grants to help with its downtown revitalization project.
The two grants are for $200,000 each and will evaluate the presence of hazardous substances and petroleum, respectively, at certain locations within the community.
According to the Brownfields 2008 Grant Fact Sheet by the EPA, “A brownfield site is real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant.”
The grants were given to Esparto because the city is already known to have these particular hazardous materials and a number of brownfields in prime downtown areas.
“We’ve already been assessed, and we have hazardous substances,” said executive director of the Esparto Regional Chamber of Commerce Elizabeth Campbell. “We know there’s petroleum and other hazardous substances seeping, and we know that it’s a lengthy process to get rid of this stuff.”
Although the assessment process and actually cleaning up the hazardous material in the city will take a long time, it is a necessary step toward city self-improvement, said Yolo County manager of economic development Wes Ervin. Esparto has undergone a 20-year decline where the city lost its pharmacy, gas station, bank and other downtown amenities.
“The community is working very hard to revitalize its downtown revitalization project,” Ervin said.
Now that the grants have been given to Esparto, there will be a three-phase approach for how they will be utilized in finding the brownfield sites.
The first phase is the communitywide screening of all potential sites that have a historical or industrial history of contamination, Ervin said. After the initial survey, Yolo County will submit a work plan by June 2 of which areas to investigate further, and will receive funds for further investigation in October.
After the areas are surveyed, there will be an environmental assessment site inspection where, with the permission of the owner, the consultant expert will go to the site and conduct a more thorough examination of the land. The third phase will occur when and if the expert finds the worst cases of contamination. Then measures will be taken to get rid of the contamination by moving piles of material and taking samples of the soil to see if the water supply was contaminated.
Although the city’s economy has been affected by the hazardous waste, due to the closing of buildings because of contamination, the health of the community members has not been affected by the presence of the hazardous material.
“We’re not aware of any health hazards,” Ervin said. “The county’s environmental health department inspects all existing operations.”
Even though the downtown revitalization plans will have to wait until the hazardous wastes have been taken care of, Esparto has already planned different ways to build up the city.
“We’ve already set aside money for streetscape improvements, and we are finding funds so a nonprofit can acquire one or more of the buildings downtown to renovate them and lease them to other businesses so they won’t be vacant anymore,” Ervin said.
ALEX BULLER can be reached at email@example.com.XXX