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Changes to WEDC’s Brownfield Site Assessment Grant Program affecting asbestos abatement projects in small communities

We would like to draw your attention to a change to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation’s (WEDC’s) Brownfield Site Assessment Grant (SAG) Program that specifically affects communities with a population under 2,500.

Under the new program guidelines that took effect on July 1, 2023, communities with population less than 2,500 can apply for grant funds to use toward an asbestos abatement project without first completing a site investigation that documents soil or groundwater contamination. By removing the requirement for a site investigation, we hope to make it easier for older properties in our state’s smallest communities to be safely remediated.

Attached you will find a SAG Program overview. Note that the applicant for this type of project must be the local unit of government, but the applicant may contract with a third party such as a property owner or developer to complete the work.

The ideal SAG project is a blighted and/or underutilized site that may be difficult to redevelop due to known or suspected environmental concerns. SAG projects typically address a variety of issues, including asbestos, lead paint, petrochemicals, solvents, or other contaminants that may adversely affect health and safety and/or interest in the property. A SAG award allows municipalities and potential investors to better understand the condition of a property and take the initial steps needed to encourage future investment into the building or property.

Critical components of the SAG for municipalities of any size to consider include:

  • “Eligible site or facility” means one or more contiguous industrial or commercial facilities or sites with common or multiple ownership that are abandoned, idle, or underused, the expansion or redevelopment of which is adversely affected by actual or perceived environmental contamination.
  • Ineligible sites include those where the municipality caused the environmental contamination or where the person or entity that caused the contamination is known or can be located and is financially able to pay the cost of the eligible activities.
  • Eligible applicants include a tribe, city, village, town, county, redevelopment authority, or community development authority.
  • The site does not need to be owned by the municipality, but the municipality must be given legal access to the site to perform the SAG activities proposed. Eligible costs include environmental assessment or investigation of a site, demolition of buildings or structures (see next bullet), and removal of storage tanks and hazardous waste containers. Additionally, for communities with population of less than 2,500, asbestos removal projects are allowed without site investigation of soil or groundwater contamination. These projects may include partial demolition to remove contaminated materials.
  • Projects seeking funding for demolition activities should demonstrate that clearing the site will facilitate and provide greater access for environmental site investigation of soil and groundwater. A SAG award is limited to 80% of hard costs up to $150,000.
  • The statutory limit that an entity may receive no more than $150,000 in SAG funds in one fiscal year means an entity may receive one SAG award or multiple awards, as long as the total amount of all grants under this program does not exceed $150,000.

For more information and to explore potential SAG projects in your community, please reach out to a WEDC regional economic development director (REDD). View a list and connect with your local REDD at www.wedc.org/regional