EPA grant may clean polluted Chico fields

Photograph by Dan Reidel A grant from the Environmental Protection Agency will allow Chico to identify areas, including Little Chico Creek, that could be contaminated with petroleum or other pollutants.
Photograph by Dan Reidel
A grant from the Environmental Protection Agency will allow Chico to identify areas, including Little Chico Creek, that could be contaminated with petroleum or other pollutants.

The City Council is planning to promote cleaner and more developed areas in hazardous and underdeveloped parts of Chico by seeking input from an environmental assessment company.

In 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency awarded the city of Chico a $400,000 grant for the cleanup of hazardous brownfields sites located in Southern Chico.

The planning committee is now using this money to recruit environmental firms to investigate the areas, according to a document from the Chico city council.

The deadline for the submissions was Sept. 27, 2013. The city is awaiting the next steps of assessment and cleanup.

Southern Chico has nearly 90 Brownfield sites, which are tainted or suspected of being contaminated with hazardous substances and petroleum products, according to a city report. Over half these sites are vacant or underutilized.

A Brownfield site refers to property, or the development of such property, that is hindered from development by contaminated material in the area.

The main environmental issue is the groundwater and soil under these Brownfields, said Shawn Tillman, the senior planner on the Chico City Council. The land that has been affected by hazardous petroleum and heavy metal has stunted community growth and become less attractive for use. Contaminated properties also present a potential risk to human health through exposure to air, soils and groundwater, according to the report.

“The target area for the grant is south Chico, generally bordered by Little Chico Creek to the north, the Union Pacific Railroad mainline to the west, East Park Avenue to the south and Highway 99 to the east,” Tillman wrote in an email to The Orion.

The hazards the Brownfield sites could present to the surrounding buildings and populace has made them less attractive for development, according to the city report. Because of this, they have not seen improvement. The area has an unusually high incidence of cancers, including leukemia and bone marrow.

“Contaminated sites need to be identified and cleaned up in order to be redeveloped with a productive use,” he wrote.

These areas affect health, job growth, and property value, Tillman wrote. The city is awaiting the evaluation of the Brownfields to be able to begin a beneficial improvement.

The results of the environmental firms’ assessment will facilitate an effort to clean up the contaminated areas. The planning committee wants to redevelop these sites to expand and utilize these unattractive and hazardous areas and promote a newer, brighter community, Tillman wrote.

The Council doesn’t know how long the firms are going to take, but they’re expected to finish their assessments in the next spring or summer.

Once the environmental firms complete their investigation of the Brownfields, the City Council will have the information necessary to begin the prospective improvement of the hazardous sites, Tillman wrote. With a newly developed part of the community, it’s possible that companies will become more interested in these current underutilized parts of the city.

 

Nathan Lehmann can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_news on Twitter.