Edward Chu, Acting EPA Region 7 administrator announces a $300,000 grant for brownfields cleanup in Topeka. (Allison Kite/Kansas Reflector)
TOPEKA — Topeka will receive $300,000 in federal funds to eradicate contamination near the Kansas River to make way for new development, city and federal officials announced Wednesday.
The Environmental Protection Agency provided funds from its Multipurpose, Assessment, and Cleanup Grant Program, which is designed to help local governments, American Indian tribes and nonprofits assess and clean up properties for redevelopment.
In the case of Topeka, officials plan to use the program to develop a park along the north side of the river, a continuation of work to develop downtown North Topeka, or NOTO. Topeka Mayor Michelle De La Isla said the city also would do assessments on the south side of the river.
De La Isla spoke from Red Bud Park in North Topeka, which she noted was an empty lot until recent years. Topeka also received a grant in 2017 that helped fund its efforts in NOTO. Because of that work, she said, the city has that park and a “thriving” NOTO.
“The importance of the EPA grant is that it allows us to do an environmental assessment with regards to what is happening underground to ensure that if there is anything that is not environmentally sound, we can tackle it and make it a safe place for us to continue to flourish,” De La Isla said.
The $300,000 grant will allow the city to start work on developing a park right in front of Great Overland Station, a 94-year-old train station that reopened earlier this month. The surrounding neighborhood includes numerous industrial businesses and railroad crossings.
Edward Chu, acting administrator for EPA Region VII, which covers Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa, said Topeka was the only city in Kansas to receive one of the grants this year.
“Here in Topeka we continue to see the promise of EPA’s brownfields program being fulfilled through visionary thinking,” Chu said, telling De La Isla that her team had “earned a place among the best brownfields redevelopment innovators in our part of the country.”
Chu said President Joe Biden saw the program as important to rebuild the U.S. economy and address environmental justice.
The EPA also provided $5 million in funds to Kansas State University. Matt O’Keefe, dean of K-State’s engineering school, said the school is one of a few that provides technical assistance to agencies applying for brownfields grants.
O’Keefe said the university provides workshops and presentations, as well as planning and economic development expertise.
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.