St. Joseph County will receive $300,000 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to assess and clean up contaminated properties under the agency’s brownfields program. 

The county will use grant funds to conduct eight phase I and eight phase II environmental site assessments, as well as to conduct community involvement activities and develop cleanup and reuse plans.

Assessment activities will focus on downtown Three Rivers area, which is located in a qualified opportunity zone. Priority sites include Old Three Rivers Hospital; the vacant Whitehouse building, which operated as an appliance and furniture store, a manufacturer of hospital appliances, and an auto dealership; and a former Chrysler dealership.

"St. Joseph County is thrilled to receive an EPA Brownfield Assessment grant,” said Teresa Doehring, St. Joseph County administrator/controller. “This funding will serve as a catalyst for redevelopment in our community and in turn improve the vitality of our downtown areas, address housing needs and eliminate blight. We look forward to partnering with the EPA in this critical initiative.” 

Three Rivers city manager Joe Bippus said the city has participated in this grant in the past, and it has been highly useful in covering costs for environmental sampling and reporting which assists in the redevelopment of contaminated sites.

Grants awarded by EPA’s brownfields program provide communities across the country with an opportunity to transform contaminated sites into community assets that attract jobs and achieve broader economic development outcomes, while taking advantage of existing infrastructure.

Ottawa and Calhoun counties also received some of the $1.7 million granted to southwest Michigan communities in this round of funding.

“These communities are ready to move forward with redevelopment; they just lacked the funding to take that next step,” said EPA Regional Administrator Kurt Thiede. “EPA’s Brownfields grants help jump-start the process by providing support for assessments and cleanups.”