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Blighted city wastelands to get money for cleanup
14 May 2007

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - Cities across the country, including four in New Jersey, will receive about $71 million to help clean up blighted and polluted industrial sites inside city limits, officials from the Environmental Protection Agency announced Monday.

The money will go to 38 states, two territories and five tribal nations to help them revitalize areas in cities that have been damaged by pollution, contaminated by oil, scarred by mining and blighted by the sale of illegal drugs.

"Replacing rubble, we now have grass and trees. Communities are turning urban blight into urban pride, and also removing the environmental impact of these industrial sites," said Marcus Peacock, deputy administrator for the EPA. "All of us together are moving forward, turning problem properties into assets."

In New Jersey, Trenton, Atlantic City, Mantua and the Middlesex County Improvement Authority will each receive $200,000 in grants that are to be used to assess how much contamination there is in sites in their areas.

Trenton Mayor Douglas H. Palmer, who is also the president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, said the money going to the city will be spent trying to figure out where there is contamination from abandoned gas stations.

Over the years, Trenton has had about 150 gas stations, according to city officials. But when many of the gas stations went through foreclosure, the city was forced to pick up the tab for cleaning up the stations, officials said. Before they can remove the waste, they have to figure out what is there, which is what they'll use the grant money to do.

But Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club, said the money doesn't go far enough to help cities deal with polluted neighborhoods.

"It's a drop in the bucket for what is necessary," said Tittel, who added that there is very little federal oversight of areas that are cleaned up to make sure that the job is done properly.

According to the EPA, there are about 450,000 abandoned and contaminated waste sites across the country. In 2002, President Bush signed into law legislation that provides for annual grants to help clean up these sites.
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