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REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

Slow Cleanup Questioned 
Group says city’s poorest areas riddled with brownfields

BY STEVE GAMBINI  

WATERBURY — A religious and community group working on social justice issues is seeking answers from the city on why its poorest areas remain stagnant.

About a dozen representatives of the Naugatuck Valley Project met Tuesday with Mayor Michael J. Jarjura and some of his key current and former staff members. They wanted to discuss why there had not been more progress toward cleaning up contaminated industrial sites — known as brownfields — that mainly are located in the poorest areas of Waterbury.

“The appearance is that there’s nothing happening in Waterbury when things are happening in other places,” said the Rev. John Cooney, pastor of St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church in Watertown and president of the NVP board of directors.

Jarjura insisted that despite the lack of construction on the sites, which the city has been struggling to catalog since 2003, there is more going on to redevelop the inner city than people realize.
“It’s hard to correct a perception,” Jarjura said.

A year ago the General Assembly passed legislation that makes it easier for cities and investors to conduct testing on polluted properties without incurring the costs of cleaning them. The old regulation was a disincentive for property owners and governments to conduct research into sites.

With that obstacle gone, Jarjura said the other biggest hurdles are money and willing developers.

Stephen Sasala II, speaking as vice chairman of the Waterbury Development Corp. board of directors, praised the city for its efforts.

The last successful brownfields redevelopment project in Waterbury — the Brass Mill Center — stands as a model for how to complete a project in the state, Sasala said.

Waterbury has not brought another cleanup project to completion since the mall opened in 1997.

Sheila O’Malley, Jarjura’s former chief of staff, was called to attend the session because of her work obtaining grant money to address the problems. She said the enormity of the city’s environmental problems makes it hard to identify progress.

The city and the Waterbury Development Corp. have made some slight progress on developing a ranked inventory of brownfields that was supposed to come from a $350,000 federal grant awarded in 2003.
The WDC released a draft inventory of eight sites that includes notations on what information exists on contamination.
The properties on the list are centered on the South Main Street corridor, which economic development officials have identified as the most promising candidates for redevelopment in the future.

Of the eight properties, two have undergone specific ground testing essential to determining cleanup costs.

Copyright (c) 2007 Republican-American 10/04/2007