An abandoned downtown property in Lancaster with a 25-year history of petroleum contamination is getting closer to being cleaned up and marketable to possible buyers with assistance from a brownfields grant from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
The financial award is from the DNR’s Wisconsin Assessment Monies (WAM) program, which provides contractor services worth up to $35,000 for eligible sites. The DNR made the award to Grant County, which acquired the property through tax foreclosure in April 2020.
Years ago, a leaking underground fuel tank was removed from the parking lot at the two-story property, located at 132 E. Maple St. Approximately 850 tons of contaminated soil was removed, but fuel contamination remained at the site. The WAM award to Grant County will help define the degree and extent of the remaining contamination so that it can be cleaned up and marketed to potential buyers.
“In a small, rural community, commercial property sales can be challenging, especially when there are environmental issues,” said Jodie Peotter, DNR brownfields outreach and policy section chief in the Remediation and Redevelopment Program. “Grant County’s award will help them answer remaining questions about the extent of petroleum contamination at this site. Once environmental issues are addressed, it may be easier to attract a prospective buyer and eventually get the property back on the tax roll.”
Since 2009, the WAM program has provided more than $2.6 million to 64 communities across the state, partnering to help clean up and redevelop often run-down or underused properties that distract from a community’s potential.
Administered by the DNR’s Remediation and Redevelopment program, WAM awards provide communities with professional environmental site assessments of properties with known or perceived contamination. The program is funded through a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) brownfields assessment grant.
Participation in the WAM program requires minimal effort by local governments. Because there is no local financial match, WAM is an attractive opportunity for communities to gain knowledge of environmental conditions. In many instances, WAM awards are leveraged with other sources of funding to kick-start repurposing efforts on properties that may have been underutilized for many years.
Applications for WAM assistance may be submitted at any time. The DNR uses WAM funding to assess brownfields throughout the state, concentrating on industrial sites and closed, or closing, manufacturing plants. WAM awards are also made available to brownfields that may not have had a history of manufacturing but are in rural areas, racially diverse communities or economically disadvantaged areas.