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Brownfields Cleanup Project Begins In Holyoke


A federally-funded brownfields cleanup project is under way in Holyoke, Massachusetts to demolish a former auto service facility that has sat vacant and unusable for more than two decades.

 The 8,000-square foot building, which contains asbestos, PCBs, heavy metals and other materials hazardous to human health, was taken by the city of Holyoke for non-payment of property taxes in 1996. The fact it took so long to begin to clean up the site underscores the shortage of funds needed in old New England cities with large numbers of abandoned industrial buildings, according to officials.

The cost of the demolition and cleanup of the hazardous materials will be about $300,000. The majority of the funding is coming from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, with additional funds from MassDevelopment and technical support from the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission.

" It is the type of public action that is needed to stimulate private investment," said Marcos Marrero, the city’s director of planning and economic development. He said Holyoke did not have money of its own available to do the cleanup work, so the property sat for a long time as a contaminated eyesore.

By this summer, if the cleanup goes as expected, the city will seek bids to redevelop the half-acre site located in an industrial park right next to the Main Street interchange with Interstate 391.

" It is ideal for industrial uses that can take advantage of easy access onto 391," he said.

The EPA funds cleanup projects like the one in Holyoke through a competitive grant process, according to Cathy Castagna of the EPA’s brownfields program.

$69 million was allocated last year for brownfields cleanup in all of New England, according to Castagna.

Massachusetts also has a limited amount of state funds available for brownfields projects, according to State Rep. Aaron Vega of Holyoke.

" This money is needed throughout the Commonwealth," Vega said.  " When we see these places cleaned up and new businesses come in with new jobs and put money on the local tax rolls, we need to continue to tell that story."

The previous owner of the property being cleaned up in Holyoke was New England Speed Equipment Inc.

The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.
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