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Christopher Bartley, a city consultant and senior scientist with Terracon, led discussions about the brownfield property grants with developers and community members.

The City of Aiken has identified over 60 potential sites that could benefit from two EPA Brownfields Assessment Grants awarded in April 2018 and now seeks community input to prioritize specific sites from that list.

According to the EPA, brownfields are property the expansion, redevelopment or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant. 

The grants, totaling $300,000, allow the city to assess environmentally hazardous properties developers may want to transform into something beneficial for the community.

In discussions led by Christopher Bartley, a city consultant and senior scientist with Terracon, developers and community members were given more information on the project process during a Monday meeting at the Lessie B. Price Aiken Senior Youth Center.  

As part of the process for the grants, the city developed an inventory list by reviewing city maps dating back to the early 1900s. Areas include but are not limited to old gas stations, the old Aiken Hospital and property adjacent to the farmers market.

Joy Lester, City of Aiken Capital Projects Sales Tax administrator, said the projects' next steps will be to map out prioritized areas based on the community's response. 

"We're going to gather up information we have and questions that we have, and we'll work with our consultant to put a map out of the actual area so people won't have to guess and then start talking about how the properties are going to be ranked," Lester said.

According to the city's website, the two grants will focus on the downtown and Northside communities of Aiken. 

Of the $300,000, two-thirds of the grant money will be used to assess potentially hazardous substance contamination on former industrial or commercial sites. The remaining $100,000 will be used for petroleum studies at the same type of areas. 

According to a City of Aiken press release, proven success has been achieved in the Aiken community through the state's brownfields program with the Lessie B. Price Aiken Senior Youth Center project. 

The project realized the assessment of pesticide impacted soils, underground storage tank-related soil and groundwater, asbestos and lead paint at the former school district maintenance facility adjacent to Eustis Park. 

Lester said more meetings will most likely be held in the early fall. Forms given out at the meeting will be made available on the city's brownfields webpage. 

More information on the Brownfield Assessment Grant can be found at cityofaikensc.gov/government/2018-brownfields-program-assessment-grant/.

Matthew Enfinger is a general assignment reporter with The Aiken Standard. Follow him on Twitter: @matt_enfinger