Memphis' environmental clean-up efforts bolstered by $1M grant from EPA; EDGE to administer loans

What’s happening: It’s been a long time coming and it’s happening in Memphis. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hasn’t awarded one of their Revolving Loan Fund grants to a Tennessee city since 2009 – it was Knoxville, for the record – and, perhaps even more significantly, hasn’t ever awarded a brownfield loan fund in Shelby County. That all changed recently with EDGE’s announcement that the organization has secured a $1 million EPA Revolving Loan Fund grant for local brownfield remediation efforts.

What it is: The $1 million EPA grant is self-sustaining, meaning that as loan recipients repay their loans, the principal, interest, and fees will be returned to the fund and become available to lend again. These loans are intended, as EDGE states, to support “community-wide clean-up programs targeting contaminated commercial sites for redevelopment inside Memphis’ city limits.” The loan fund will be administered by EDGE for at least five years.

How it works: Memphis property owners, including both non-profits and private entities, are eligible for up to $200,000 in loans for brownfield remediation efforts at commercial sites. The grant stipulates that community and public input meetings are required for each proposed site that applies for a loan.

As defined by the EPA, “A brownfield is a property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.” As such, the EDGE-administered grants may be used for a number of clean-up activities, including asbestos clean-up, ​​lead-based paint elimination, remediation, and tank and drum removal.

Visit EDGE online to learn more about the EPA loan, application process and requirements, and more.

How they did it: EDGE organized a coalition of public and community organizations to win the EPA grant, a group that includes the City of Memphis Division of Housing & Community Development, Community Redevelopment Agency, The Works CDC, and more. The organization also credits the newly formed Memphis Brownfields Advisory Committee in tipping the scales in Memphis’ favor.

[Related: Read "This North Memphis resident reflects on decades of environmental injustices — and seeks solutions" on High Ground News.]

Why it’s important: "These grants are a significant milestone for us as it supports our commitment to revitalizing strategic areas in Memphis and promoting environmental justice," said Ashely Cash, Director of the City of Memphis' Division of Housing and Community Development. "The funds will allow us to remediate sites, conduct environmental assessments, develop cleanup plans, and actively engage the community.

“These funds will provide crucial resources that remove longstanding barriers and transform contaminated sites into vibrant, sustainable spaces that benefit our residents and economy. Together with our coalition partners, we are excited to create sustainable and vibrant spaces that uplift our community.”

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