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Federal grants help Waterloo brownfields cleanups

Federal grants help Waterloo brownfields cleanups

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WATERLOO -- The city will pump more federal dollars into cleaning up two abandoned east-side industrial sites as it holds out hope for new tenants.

Waterloo City Council members voted unanimously Monday to accept an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for $200,000 to clean up known underground contamination at the former Construction Machinery Co. site and Vinton and Glenwood streets.

A separate $50,000 EPA grant will allow further environmental assessments at the old Chamberlain Manufacturing complex at East Fourth and Esther streets, a former defense contracting firm shuttered in 1994.

Both grants come from EPA brownfields programs designed to encourage the reuse of old industrial sites which often sit empty and deteriorate when new businesses locate on the edge of communities -- or greenfields -- to avoid contamination risks, either real or perceived, at older locations. Waterloo officials are using the federal dollars to mitigate those risks and lure redevelopment.

CMC, which manufactured cement mixers until closing in 1993, was damaged by fires. Some $350,000 in federal grants helped the city demolish most of the buildings, but tests found a buried railcar of industrial solvents and other contamination on the land. The latest $200,000 grant, plus $40,000 of city staff time, will be used to clean up the contaminants.

"We don't know if that's going to be enough or not," said City Planner Noel Anderson. "Until they get in there and start doing it, we won't know how bad it is."

Anderson said there hasn't been much interest in the CMC site from potential developers. But there has been inquiries about a remaining building on the property, which is owned by an out-of-state investor.

Meanwhile, the city has been in discussions with the owners of the Chamberlain buildings about taking over the site. The latest $50,000 grant, which is on top of $300,000 received earlier, will continue the environmental assessment of the complex.

"We need to know what's there and the risk if the city would take ownership," Anderson said.

In other business, council members unanimously approved:

-- Rejecting all construction bids received for the Winn Street extension project to serve The CBE Group Inc. and Cedar Valley Medical Specialists projects, south of Tower Park. The earlier bids came in well above estimates, and City Engineer Eric Thorson said the bids had technical errors. Council members set a new bid opening date for Aug. 8.

-- Authorizing the Iowa Department of Economic Development to pursue recovery of a $30,000 loan made from the Community Economic Betterment Account program to Airgas-North Central, which state officials say defaulted on the loan agreement made in 1998. The city is not liable for the loss, but had to assign a promissory note to the IDED to allow the state agency to negotiate a settlement with the company.

Contact Tim Jamison at (319) 291-1577 or


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