HALLOWELL — The city has been awarded $300,000 in federal funding to help explore and assess sites around the city that might be suffering from long-standing, chronic problems involving hazardous materials or petroleum contamination.

Maine received a combined $1.85 million in Brownfields Planning, Site Assessment and Clean-up Grants, courtesy of the Environmental Protection Agency.

“The U.S. EPA Brownfields assessment program is very competitive, and Hallowell is fortunate to have been awarded (the funds),” City Manager Nate Rudy said. “We’re very excited for the offer of support from the U.S. EPA and have seen the transformative power of this economic development program in our sister city of Gardiner.”

Rudy said the Hallowell grant proposal focused on historic buildings and properties in and around the downtown district and in-town neighborhoods including the former Stevens School complex and the oil tank farm site along the Kennebec River.

“We don’t know the extent of any actual potential issues until the assessment work is done,” Rudy said.

The city manager said once the sites have a clean bill of health from a qualified environmental professional, they’ll become environments for reuse, infill development of green space, homes, businesses and offices. He said the sites will help the city’s various efforts to capitalize on community economic development opportunities.

Overall, the EPA on Wednesday announced it had awarded 279 grants totaling $56.8 million to 172 communities nationwide. The news release said the funds “will aid under-served and economically disadvantaged communities through the assessment and cleanup of abandoned industrial and commercial properties and expand the ability of communities to recycle vacant and abandoned properties for new, productive reuses.”

In a joint statement, Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King of Maine said these grants represent a “continued and welcomed investment in the environmental and economic revitalization of Maine communities.”

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, said in a news release that the Brownfields programs have been successful in helping Maine towns clean up and redevelop polluted sites.

Hallowell received two grants. It was awarded a $200,000 communitywide hazardous substances grant used to conduct four Phase I and four Phase II environmental site assessments and develop four cleanup plans; and the city received a $100,000 communitywide petroleum grant used to conduct four Phase I and three Phase II site assessments and develop three cleanup plans.

A brownfield site contains a pollutant, hazardous substance or contaminant that hurts the potential to reuse or redevelop the site.

Other funding in Maine includes $300,000 to the Maine Department of Environmental protection for site assessment, $200,000 to the town of Berwick for cleanup, $200,000 to the Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments for site assessment, $200,000 for an area-wide planning grant and $125,000 in technical assistance to the Eastern Maine Development Corp. for the town of Bucksport, $200,000 to the city of Bangor for site assessment, and $200,000 to Our Katahdin LLC for the town of Millinocket for cleanup and $125,000 for technical assistance.

“Maine’s economy is tied to its natural resources,” said DEP Commissioner Paul Mercer in a news release. “I am pleased the development of abandoned and unsafe property across the state puts these sites back on the property tax rolls with the use of brownfields funds.”

The state has received nearly $50 million in grant funding through the brownfields program since 1997, and it has created thousands of jobs and assessed or cleaned up 1,500 acres across Maine.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ