Pine Bluff gets EPA grant for downtown site cleanup

The city of Pine Bluff has received a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to clean up a site downtown.

EPA Regional Administrator Rob Curry said in a press release that the city will get $200,000 in brownfields funding, which will be used to clean up 601 S. Main St., which used to be the site of a service station.

The city tore down the building that used to be on the site and removed an unregistered waste oil tank, but service islands attached to the underground piping remain, and contamination at the site includes arsenic, barium and other metals, the press release from EPA said.

Lori Walker, assistant director of the Pine Bluff Community Development Department, said the city applied for the federal grant in January and was notified Tuesday that the application had been approved.

Plans are to put what Walker called a “concrete cap” over the site to cover the contaminated soil.

“There’s some engineering work to be done and then we will have to bid the project so it may be next year before it gets underway,” she said.

Walker said the city plans to convert the site to an urban plaza that will be adjacent to the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff’s Business Incubator.

“They actually brought the project to us and had some drawings and designs made up,” Walker said. “It will compliment their new building and also the plaza that Simmons Bank has across the street.”

According to the EPA press release, 171 communities will receive 264 grants totaling $67 million in brownfields funding to clean and redevelop contaminated properties.

“Over and over again, we have seen how brownfields grants can kick start the revitalization of a neighborhood,” Curry said in the press release. “These grants will help Pine Bluff’s economy and increase the sustainability of the downtown community.”