U.S. EPA awarded the City of Waterloo an FY 2020 Hazardous Substances and Petroleum Assessment Grant to investigate sites with actual or perceived contamination. 151 communities across the United States received 155 grants totaling $65.6 million in funding. The City was one of eight recipients in EPA Region 7 that includes Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska. The City has now received $2.95 million in brownfields program funding since 2000.
Underutilized properties plague the community in high concentrations along the Broadway Street Corridor and within the Urban Core. Many former businesses generated, used, stored, and/or disposed of hazardous substances and petroleum products. This situation poses a significant threat to human health and the environment. In fact, prior investigations measured levels of contaminants that exceeded their respective statewide standard. Low individual and household income levels, an elevated poverty rate, and a comparatively large presence of sensitive populations characterize the targeted areas raising environmental justice concerns.
City officials have worked tirelessly to ensure that community residents are both actively engaged in the brownfields decision-making process and knowledgeable about all grant-related activities. The City will continue to utilize well-established strategies such as hosting community outreach meetings, collaborating with local media outlets to create articles explaining the program, distributing a brownfields brochure to property owners within the targeted areas, and keeping its dynamic project website up-to-date.
Waterloo has a long history of returning former brownfields properties back to productive re-uses that benefit the entire community. Recent examples include the conversion of a vacant machinery manufacturer into a $7.4 million Public Works Department facility, the $4 million rehabilitation of a former Wonder Bread bakery into a brewery, the construction of a $7 million riverfront condominium project in a historically light industrial neighborhood, and the siting of a $27.5 million city-owned recreation center on several former auto-oriented businesses and vacant structures impacted by significant flooding in 2008.
The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier press release can be found here.