EPA awards Preston three new $200,000 grants for Norwich Hospital cleanup

Preston — The town will receive three $200,000 federal Environmental Protection Agency abatement and cleanup grants to continue demolition of structures at the former Norwich Hospital property in the latest rounds of brownfields cleanup grants announced Wednesday.

This is the third time Preston has received the EPA cleanup grants, and the town also in the past received two $350,000 EPA assessment grants for the former Norwich Hospital property, now called Preston Riverwalk.

“(This) is great news for the town,” First Selectman Robert Congdon said. “It just keeps the momentum going and gets us closer and closer to getting this property cleaned up.”

Congdon credited the federal agency as the first to support the small town’s efforts to remove dozens of decaying buildings and other structures and prepare the 393-acre former state mental illness hospital for redevelopment.

Preston took over ownership of the former hospital property in 2009 from the state in the hopes of securing cleanup money and attracting developers to perhaps the largest piece of available land in the region.

Once the first EPA grants came, and the town, under the Preston Redevelopment Agency, started showing progress, more grants and visits from state and federal officials to the property helped the town gain momentum, Congdon said.

“We couldn’t have done it without (U.S. Rep. Joe) Courtney, and the Malloy administration has been incredible,” Congdon said. “We haven’t seen this kind of support in the region. It’s the No. 1 priority project in the region.”

In total, Preston now has received $2.8 million in federal grants, including required local matching shares and another $11.2 million in state grants and loans, including matches. That total includes a $5 million Urban Act grant received recently that required no matching share, said Preston Redevelopment Agency Chairman Sean Nugent.

The three new EPA grants will require a total of $120,000 in local matching share. Congdon said $21,000 of that is included in the 2014-15 town budget, and the Board of Selectmen will request that the Board of Finance approve a request to voters for the remaining amount. The request would need a town meeting.

The new grants specifically will fund cleanup of a 3.7-acre parcel at 25 Riverview Way, a 26.5-acre parcel at 15 Fort Point Road and a 7.8-acre piece at 46 Route 12.

The cleanup sites are contaminated with PCBs, mercury and other metals. Grant funds also will be used to conduct community involvement activities.

“EPA New England Administrator Kurt Spalding personally visited the Norwich Hospital site a few years ago at my invitation to see both the challenges and the opportunities that parcel offers to the region,” Courtney, D-2nd District, said in a press release announcing the grants. “The key to unlocking its potential is to cleanse its legacy contaminants.”

The EPA also awarded New London $200,000 for brownfield site assessments.



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