City Hopes to Clean up Toxic Sites for Reuse

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — The city of Springfield is hoping to receive money from the EPA to brighten up Northwest Springfield by eliminating brownfields, or toxic sites.

About 260 have been cleaned up so far, and the city estimates there could be as many as 500 more. Olivia Hough, the brownfields coordinator, explains what qualifies as a brownfield.

“Old scrap metal yards, old mills and industrial sites, rail yards, abandoned gas stations,” Hough said.

Admittedly, some brownfields sites do fit that description.

“One example would be the White River Brewing Company on C-Street,” Hough said. “It was historically an old gas station, and had many different uses. It was an old peanut butter factory.”

Others, aren’t as obvious, but are just as dangerous. Take, for example, the old Fairbanks school on Broadway. Hough says, the bottom line is, they all contain hazardous or toxic materials, like lead paint or petroleum. The other bottom line, she hopes will come in the form of a $300,000 grant from the EPA.

“This is really the heart of what we want to see happen through our program,” Hough said.

Where there’s heart, there’s usually also home. Jeremy Hahn left his job to start up a church and daycare at the Fairbanks a few years ago.  

“I was actually born at Cox North and brought home right here on Webster Street, from the hospital, so this is home for me,” Hahn said. “I love this.”

However, because of safety concerns, he’s only been able to utilize about half the building so far.

“A hundred-year-old building, there’s a lot more there, so it’s sealed off right now, and we’re ready to dive into it,” Hahn said. “But, we’re excited to partner with the city on making that a usable space for us.”

The city plans to get rid of the lead paint and asbestos with funds it already has. If the city is awarded the new grant, money will go toward similar future projects. While progress at the Fairbanks hasn’t always been black and white, it’s certainly been brown.

The grant application is competitive with other cities across the United States. The city is hoping once the EPA sees the return on its investment, it will be willing to invest as well.

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