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Grants will target polluted property

A pair of $200,000 grants should help Dakota County get a handful of polluted properties ready for redevelopment in the next three years.

The county will use the Environmental Protection Agency grants to identify and evaluate so-called brownfields, areas where pollution left over from previous uses is preventing development, and figure out which are good candidates for cleanup and construction.

The county is currently using existing mapping information and working with cities countywide to identify properties that are good candidates for the program. The county already has a database of about 2,500 properties countywide that have some level of pollution.

"We know where, say, there used to be a dry cleaners or or there used to be a gas station or something else like that where there's a very strong possibility there is contamination," said Jill Trescott, the county's supervisor for groundwater protection, brownfields and contaminated areas. "It does run the gamut from known sites of significant contamination to farm dumps."

Dakota County is working with cities to develop the criteria they will use to select sites for evaluation. Trescott said they're looking for properties where there is already public investment such as road improvements or transit.

In other words, they want properties that are ready for development but for the pollution that exists.

Properties also must either be publicly owned or in a situation where the person responsible for the land either is unknown or lacks the means to clean it up.

Trescott estimates the grants will allow the county to do initial assessments on about 20 sites -- 10 for each grant -- a secondary assessment on about 10 sites and cleanup on four to eight sites.

The grant period is expected to run from Aug. 1, 2010 through July 31, 2013.