Two New Hampshire towns will get federal grants to clean up contaminated sites seen as obstacles to economic revitalization.
Boscawen and Jaffrey are among about 150 towns nationwide to receive the brownfield funding from the Environmental Protection Agency this year.
Boscawen will use half a million dollars to clean up a former mill and leather tannery on its riverfront. The contaminated Allied Leather site has sat abandoned since 1987.
In recent years, the city of Concord used an EPA loan to turn another former Allied site in Penacook into housing and offices.
At a press conference this week, Boscawen select board chair Lorrie Carey said residents voted twice at town meeting to help pay for their own mill cleanup.
“I learned to drive on Commercial Street where our dilapidated mill buildings are when I was a kid,” she said. “I looked at those buildings and I thought, one day I’d love to see this area cleaned up and this site developed into something useful for our town. And fast forward decades and here we are – the dream finally is going to come true.”
Carey said the cleanup project will go hand-in-hand with the small town's other economic development efforts, including linking to the Northern Rail Trail with neighboring Concord.
"We're going to have connectivity and a revitalization and really a renaissance here in Boscawen,” she said.
Meanwhile, Jaffrey is getting $300,000 to assess some of its local brownfield sites, including an old mill and a vacant school. Jaffrey has received money from the program once before; Boscawen is a first-time grantee.
Acting EPA regional administrator Deb Szaro said the grants prioritize environmental justice, seeking to address disproportionate effects of pollution in marginalized communities.
She said New England is full of ideal uses for this kind of funding, with many post-industrial towns that need financial help to realize benefits to public health, local tax rates and property values.
The grant program helps towns “transform contaminated sites into community assets that attract jobs and achieve broader economic development outcomes while taking advantage of existing infrastructure,” Szaro said.
The EPA gave out more than $66 million through the grants nationwide this year.