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City receives EPA grant for firing range cleanup

Date: 6/13/2012

June 13, 2012

By Debbie Gardner

HOLYOKE — The 18-acre Mountain Road former firing range site will be moving one step closer to re-use, thanks to a recent grant from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

On June 5, Holyoke was among four Western Massachusetts communities and programs to receive a portion of $6.75 million in EPA brownfield grants. The city's share was $200,000. At the same event, the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission received $400,000, Westmass Area Development Corporation of Chicopee received $200,000 and the city of Chicopee received $800,000, one of the four largest awards in the state.

"The EPA brownfields program is an incredible program," Karen Mendrala, senior planner for the city, said. "It really gives us a lot of help to prepare sites for development."

Mendrala said the city acquired the property on Mountain Road for use as a firing range in 1924, and utilized the site, which includes wetlands and a stream that divides the firing and target areas, until the 1970s.

The soil is now permeated with numerous hazardous materials, including lead, antimony, arsenic and herbicides that were used to keep weeds down in the target areas.

"Since the land is more rural, it's not a typical brownfields site," Mendrala said, adding that Holyoke has been working to clean up the area for "quite a few years."

She said the city received several grants to assess the site, two from the EPA and another through the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection's Chapter 128A program.

The latest EPA grant, she said, would be used to initiate soil removal and remediation at the site.

"It's a very large site," she said. "The amount of work we've had to do to get to the point of cleanup was lengthy."

Mendrala said once the site is remediated, 14 of the 18 acres is expected to be declared protected wetlands by the City Council, as it is home to endangered species. The remaining land, which borders Mountain Road, would be divided into two 2.5-acre single-family residential lots.

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