Cleaning Up Brownfields To Bring Redevelopment To The Coast

People came out to the Faith Tabernacle church in Biloxi to learn about redeveloping blighted areas in their communities, more specifically Brownfields.

"A Brownfield is that piece of property in your community that for whatever reason just cannot seemed to be redeveloped," says Trey Hess.

The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) says it could be environmental issues or negative perceptions of the property that may keep it from being redeveloped. Bishop James Black, of the Biloxi-based Center for Environmental and Economic Justice is concerned about lost economic development from brownfield properties being overlooked.

"We have highway 90 being developed and D'Iberville in between nothing is happening. And so how do we get economic dollars to build and rebuild our communities blighted by Katrina and pre-Katrina," says Bishop James Black, Center for Environmental and Economic Justice and Faith Tabernacle Pastor.

MDEQ says it's important to re-use properties, reduce urban sprawl and bring jobs back to Mississippi. Although development is slowly coming back on Highway 90, MDEQ officials say there are obvious brownfields that must be addressed.

"Gas stations, we've got to iron out the environmental issues.  We've got to decide whether they'll come back as gas stations or be redeveloped into something else," says Trey Hess with MDEQ.

"Maybe the answer lies somewhere in between. A city that will addresss the needs of the suburban towns around it and the business community without sacrificing the needs of people who made Biloxi what it is - its residents," says Larry Charles, Center for Public Environmental Oversight.

When it comes to redevelopment, those who spoke at the workshop say the community must take the initiative to recognize brownfields and get elected officials involved in redeveloping their communities.

The Center for Public Environmental Oversight, Center for Environmental and Economic Justice, MDEQ and the U.S. EPA organized the workshop.

There is grant money available through EPA's Brownfields program as much as 70 million dollars. The deadline for this year's grant is October 12th.

If you would like to learn more about brownfields, click here.