May 13, 2009

OAKLAND Against the backdrop of a nicely landscaped East Oakland housing development once a toxic industrial site and blighted housing complex officials from Oakland and the Environmental Protection Agency announced millions of dollars in grants and federal stimulus funds for similar cleanup and revitalization projects around the Bay Area and the state.

"(The grants) will allow us to continue the strategy of clean-and-green here in Oakland," said Mayor Ron Dellums at a Wednesday morning news conference at Lion Creek Crossing, off 69th Avenue at Lion Way, where about 1,100 residents live in affordable housing built in 2005.

"By locating toxic areas, we can take problem properties and turn them into vital, viable, safe parts of our community," Dellums said.

Oakland, Emeryville and San Pablo were named as recipients of about $3 million in EPA grants for 2009. Oakland will receive $800,000, with $200,000 of that going to complete the fourth phase of the Lion Creek Crossing development with 72 more housing units. That area previously housed auto repair, storage facilities and concrete manufacturing operations. Contaminants of concern are primarily metals and semi-volatile organic compounds, EPA officials said. Another $600,000 will go to assessing toxic areas in West Oakland and a 2-acre site at Foothill Boulevard and Seminary Avenue, which had been used for businesses such as a dry cleaner, printer and auto repair garage.

Emeryville will receive $1,000,000 for a revolving loan fund to provide loans to support cleanup activities for sites contaminated with hazardous substances, EPA officials said, plus $400,000 to clean up Horton Landing Park, formerly part of a rail yard, the Emeryville Greenway at 59th Street and the 48th Street Community Garden, which was contaminated with metals spilled from adjacent properties.

San Pablo will get $400,000 for assessments and cleanup plans for areas with petroleum contamination.

Bolstered by funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the grants are designed to help communities clean up sites known as "brownfields," which may be contaminated by hazardous chemicals or pollutants, EPA officials said.

"We're very excited to be able to contribute to the future of Oakland and all the communities receiving brownfield grants this year," said Laura Yoshii, acting regional administrator for the EPA in the Pacific Southwest. "Lion Creek is an example of a former site of industrial waste that has been transformed into a safe, sustainable neighborhood," she said.

In 2005, the EPA provided $600,000 for the first phase of Lion Creek, where more than 350 units were built. The project received national recognition and includes a Boys & Girls Club, Head Start offices and a computer lab.

"As we can see today, this is a much different place than it was just a few years ago," Yoshii said.

"I had the privilege of walking on this very site when it was a huge pile of dirt and a bunch of unknown chemicals," said Maziar Movassaghi, acting director of the state's Department of Toxic Substances Control. "This is the kind of area with foundries and auto repair industries where workers would just take drums of toxic waste and pour it onto the ground. We removed over 6,800 cubic yards of contaminated soil, and replaced it with clean soil. It is wonderful to see what has happened to this site."

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