WaterFire receives EPA grants to clean up future Valley Street home

WHILE WATERFIRE makes a visual impression with the public during its installations, its offices are scattered across Providence. With the purchase of an industrial property on Valley Street in the city, and thanks to a $600,000 grant from the U.S. EPA, it will be able to consolidate its offices by next year.
Posted 5/8/13

PROVIDENCE – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced that WaterFire Providence is one of two Providence organizations that will receive cleanup grants to be disbursed through the EPA’s Brownfields Program.

Brownfields are properties where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant.

According to the EPA, WaterFire Providence will receive three grants totaling $600,000 to clean up Parcels A, B and C of the former Uniroyal U.S. Rubber Plant site, located at 475, 485 and 495 Valley St. in Providence.

Peter Mello, managing director of WaterFire, said WaterFire purchased the property in November for $425,000 and plans to consolidate all WaterFire operations into the location sometime in 2014.

He added that WaterFire has not officially announced plans to move into the Valley Street location, but that the organization expects to hold a press conference or ribbon cutting sometime in the next two weeks.

The Valley Street site was previously part of a large industrial complex that had been subdivided multiple times during the past 50 years. Currently, the property consists mostly of paved areas and a loading dock. There is also a one-story warehouse building that was constructed in 1929. Environmental concerns include the presence of metals, semi-volatile organic compounds and arsenic. Parcel C is believed to also be contaminated with PCB, or polychlorinated biphenyl.

Mello said WaterFire was aware that the site was contaminated before the property was purchased. He said the organization applied for the EPA grants shortly after the sale was completed.

“We’re really excited about receive these funds, and we’re looking forward to developing the property on Valley Street to give us a home that will give us a constant presence in the community and a place for people to come and experience WaterFire, or learn more about WaterFire,” he said Wednesday.

“We have no continual visual presence in the community,” Mello added, explaining that people see the crew during WaterFire events, but don’t know where they go after that. In addition, he said, employees are split between a couple of locations and that equipment is stored at about five locations.

The West Broadway Neighborhood Association also received a $200,000 grant to clean up hazardous substances at the former L&L Gas and Service Station located at 1326 Westminster St. The site was developed prior to 1889 and by 1950, fueling stations were located on several portions of it. The area was used as a gas and service station until 1998 and is contaminated with inorganic materials, polycylic aromatic hydrocarbons, metals and PCB.

“This federal funding will help local partners clean up our communities and revitalize these sites to restore them to productive use,” said U.S. Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and U.S. Reps. James R. Langevin and David N. Cicilline in a joint statement. “This is a smart federal investment in protecting the health and well-being of residents and the environment and generating economic growth and strengthening the local economy.”

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