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Waste Site Cleanup & Reuse in New England

US EPA Brownfields Program Helps "Drive" Chicopee, MA Toward a Cleaner and More Prosperous Tomorrow

Success in EPA Brownfields Assessment Grant Program
Chicopee, MA
(December 3, 2003)

The full service Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) branch office, complete with drive through window, at 1011 Chicopee Street in the bourgeoning Chicopee, MA has helped stimulate and revitalize the Willimansett neighborhood it now calls home. The DMV was made possible in part by a grant in 1996 that was part of the US EPA Brownfields Assessment Grant. The program enabled the city to perform assessments on the property that cost over $35,000 and helped create a long term strategy for the once contaminated property’s redevelopment.

The over 21,000 square foot property has a 67-year history of contamination and each consecutive owner contributed more and more to the contamination present at the property. From 1930, when the original 1,769 square foot building was built, until 1960 the property was utilized for used car sales. It was then used as an auto mechanics service station called Slate’s Service Station from 1965 through 1970 when it was purchased by Drake’s Bakeries as a food storage facility. The final owner was Tri-City Cleaners, a full-service dry cleaners. Tri-City owned the property from 1970 until 1997 until they failed to pay city taxes and the city took possession of the property through the tax-foreclosure process.

The city went into action immediately to redevelop the property following foreclosure. The Office of Community Development saw the heavily contaminated property as a possible focal point of a greater redevelopment plan for the city that would encompass several other contaminated properties throughout the Chicopee area. Through the help of the 1996 grant of as part of the aforementioned Brownfields Assessment Demonstration Pilots Program, the city of Chicopee was able to pay the TRC Environmental Corporation over $35,000 to perform environmental assessment on the property. The assessment paved the way for the redevelopment of the property.

By July of 2000, TRC had performed both Phase I and Phase II site assessments on the property. Their finds revealed widespread environmental contamination at the site. Two 10,000 gallon underground storage tanks (USTs) were found. In addition, coal ash residue from the adjacent rail road tracks was also found along with several types of dry cleaning chemicals and small concentrations of lead, asbestos, and Semi-Volatile Organic Compounds. Armed with this information, the city of Chicopee was ready to cleanup and then redevelop the contaminated property.

By 2002, the city had renovated the existing building to create a full service branch of the Department of Motor Vehicles. The property’s remediation was funded by the Chicopee Community Development Block Grant and other city and state funds. The DMV has spurred increased tax revenues in the low-income neighborhood surrounding the property, created a necessary increase in police presence in the community, and offered members of the community well-paid employment. The redevelopment now serves as a hub for revitalization for the surrounding community by increasing law enforcement, deterring crime, and redeveloping a vacant and possibly dangerous building within the community.

The population of Chicopee, MA is 55,000. The unemployment rate in Chicopee was 3% in 2000 according in the U.S. Census with 22% of workers in manufacturing or factory jobs. The median household income is $35,700 with 9.6% of the population living below the poverty level in 2000.

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