"Cleanups of polluted urban sites are in line for billions of dollars in funding following last year’s infrastructure law—money that advocates of disadvantaged communities say should help steer redevelopment into much-needed grocery stores, affordable housing, and better-paying jobs.
Environmental and community advocates are hoping the record funding will accelerate cleanups of brownfields—abandoned gas stations, dry cleaning operations, and other potentially contaminated sites—while avoiding redevelopment that may only worsen local pollution, such as truck-dependent shipping and distribution centers.
Challenges have arisen in restoring waste sites in ways that benefit communities. Local political leaders don’t necessarily prioritize cleanups and redevelopment in poorer neighborhoods, and advocacy groups have limited resources, said Omega Wilson, co-founder of the West End Revitalization Association in Mebane, N.C.
Progress in North Carolina has been slow, Wilson said, pointing to the state’s 650 sites in various stages of cleanup. The challenges for local groups include a lack of in-house resources to engage on so many sites, and to press local and state officials who don’t always make cleanups a priority to apply for funding."