SOUTH PORTLAND — The South Portland City Council, on Feb. 16, approved supporting the city’s brownfields program with $24,000 from a tax increment funding balance.

In 2019, the city received $300,000 in grant from the EPA with the purpose of establishing a city-wide Brownfield Assessment Program, Assistant City Manager Joshua Reny said.

A brownfield, said Nick Sabatine of Ransom Consulting, the city’s Qualified Environmental Professional hired to assist with the program through the grant, is defined as a “property where the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse may be complicated by the presence or perceived presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant.”

A “perceived presence” means a site that may not have issues, but that is not certain until work is done, he said. There could be asbestos in tiles, lead-based paint on walls or pollutants in the ground of properties, but until it is accessed, this is unknown.

In South Portland, the program has been widely successful, with a public outreach and education portion, Reny said. The success of the program has led to the funding running out sooner than anticipated.

“Things are going very well with this program, and it seems there’s certainly a need in this community for more of this type of thing,” he said.

The city is planning to apply for another round of the EPA grant later in the year, Reny said. The requested $24,000,  allocated from the One Wallace Ave TIF, will help the program segue into that second round of grants.

Sabatine said the assessment program is beneficial to developers or property owners, allowing them access to more information about what is on site. South Portland’s program has been targeting the waterfront area, adjacent to the Fore River.

Developer and property owner benefits to the program include information of what is on site, an ability to avoid environmental surprises, the promotion of smart growth, more economic growth through job creation and and improvement of community pride, Sabatine said.

Because the program is focused on community outreach, the city’s Brownfields Advisory Team has met with developers, site owners and project stakeholders, Jaime Madore of Ransom Consulting said.

She said the team started with targeted areas on the waterfront to examine.

“We want to make this a sustainable program where we’re always getting money in, and so as site owners approach the program, we’re always going to have some money to help fund assessments on their sites,” Madore said.

Councilor April Caricchio said she likes and wants to support the program, but has concerns.

“I don’t love it, putting a lot of money into the pockets of people who have deep pockets, especially if any of that money is coming from our taxpayers here in South Portland, but I recognize the importance of redevelopment and I support that,” she said.

Often times developers will be responsible for the cleanup of sites themselves, said Sabatine.

Councilor Deqa Dhalac said the program is beneficial for the city’s future and is important to support.

A previous citywide brownfields educational meeting is available on the city’s website, along with information about the program. For more information, visit www.southportland.org/departments/planning-and-development/brownfields-assessment.

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