Will County Brownfield Assessment Grant Program

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Will County History and Brownfield Redevelopment

In the late 1800s Will County became known for mining and then steel production. In the early 1900s, the region’s economic base shifted from coal and limestone mining to steel production. In the early 1930s, the region shifted again to refinery development and soon after WWII military production.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the area known as the rust belt suffered changing economic conditions. Large manufacturers like the Joliet Army Ammunition Plant and US Steel closed while other manufacturers like Caterpillar reduced operations.

Brownfield redevelopment has been targeted to address environmental and human health issues left in blighted areas left behind by closure of industrial developments, which were often located along Will County’s waterways. Redevelopment will encourage growth in abandoned, historically industrial sections of the County’s communities. Note: This program grant does not fund demolition, remediation, or cleanup activities. However, the reports generated through this program can be utilized to secure other grant funding for these activities.

Brownfield Program In the News

Polluted Joliet-area sites targeted for cleanup

In the newsPolluted Joliet-area sites targeted for cleanupBy Jessie Molloy and Felix SarverShaw Local News Network A Will County nonprofit began its first efforts on Tuesday to gather input from residents on what potentially contaminated or polluted areas in the...

read more

About the Will County Brownfield Assessment Grant Program

The Will County Center for Economic Development was awarded a USEPA Assessment Grant in the amount of $400,000 to complete site assessments in three targeted areas and others that will be identified during community outreach activity.

The mission of the Will County Brownfield Assessment Grant Program is to:

  • Minimize exposure to contamination to sensitive populations in the Target Areas and elsewhere in Will County
  • Increase productive site reuse of the historical industrial/commercial properties
  • Facilitate growth and quality of life improvement of the Target Areas and elsewhere in Will County

By addressing environmental and human health factors.

Through this project, the CED intends to bring citizens, environmental regulatory agencies, and consultants together around a common goal of redevelopment.

Areal view of bridge with traffic
EPA logo

Project Target Areas

Three target areas in the Des Plaines River Corridor in the cities of Joliet, Lockport, and Rockdale in the central portion of Will County were identified.

Target Area 1

The Near East Side of Joliet (Census Tract (CT) 8813.02) is a 102-acre area adjacent to the Des Plaines River and directly south of the abandoned Old Joliet Prison. The dilapidated prison has been a source of criminal activity for years, including trespassing and arson. The historically industrial use of the area is primarily vacant today.

Target Area 2

Lockport is located just north of Joliet. The Canal Road Area of Lockport (CT 8807.02) is a 1-square mile area along the Des Plaines River that has been historically used as junkyards and construction and storage-based businesses.

Target Area 3

The City of Rockdale (population of 1,979) is a 0.79-square mile City immediately south of Joliet that has been historically an industrial town where many properties were used for manufacturing during WWII and have been left abandoned and dilapidated. These three target areas were selected due to: (1) high underserved minority population; (2) high number of identified and potential brownfield sites; (3) proximity to existing redevelopment projects; (4) existing economic development strategies and revitalization plans; and (5) proximity to five federally designated Opportunity Zones (OZ) with environmental justice inadequacies.

The Background

EPA Brownfield Sites Assessment Program empowers states, communities, and other stakeholders to work together to prevent, assess, safely clean up, and sustainably reuse brownfields. A brownfield site is real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. The Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act of 2002, as amended by the Brownfields Utilization, Investment, and Local Development Act of 2018, was passed to help states and communities around the country clean up and revitalize brownfields sites. Under this law, EPA provides financial assistance to eligible applicants through four competitive grant programs: assessment grants, revolving loan fund grants, cleanup grants, and job training grants. Additionally, funding support is provided to state tribal response programs through a separate mechanism.

First Steps: Site inventory, Assessments & Outreach

Identifying Sites

Beginning October 1, 2023, we will begin working with residents living in the target areas during community meetings to create a thorough site inventory for assessment. Although initial sites were identified in the grant proposal, abandoned, and underutilized properties identified during community outreach activities will be researched further by CED staff and grant consultants to evaluate their qualifications for inclusion in the determination of eligibility.

Brownfields Eligibility Determination

Brownfields eligibility determination is a very complex process, sometimes not straightforward, and thorough evaluation with the environmental consultant’s assistance is required. EPA review and approval is required.

  1. There is no viable responsible party, i.e. there may be potential contamination at the site. However, based on the available information, either the responsible party is nowhere to be found or it is not clear who the responsible party is or the responsible party is not financially capable.
  2. The site is not subject to a corrective action order under Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.
  3. The site was acquired with All Appropriate Inquiry or involuntarily (tax closure, abandonment, etc.) or the site was acquired prior to a certain timeframe.
  4. The current and immediate past owner did not dispose of contamination and/or exacerbate the contamination.
  5. The site is not on or proposed to be on the National Priority List.
  6. There are several other factors that need to be thoroughly evaluated with the environmental consultant’s assistance. If necessary, discussions will be conducted with EPA.

Community Benefit & Outreach

Community engagement and participation is crucial to the success of this Assessment Grant.

Community meetings will keep the public informed on project plans and provide project updates. Interested property owners and residents can receive more information, suggest potential sites, and ask questions. Watch for our community meeting dates to be published on this website or sign up/stay in touch below to be notified.

Next Community Meeting

October 2024
Dates and locations coming soon


2023 Grant Activities

The CED along with our environmental consultant, Terracon Consultants, hosted community outreach meetings in November 2023 focused on educating informing the public and inviting potential site submissions for the $400,000 USEPA Brownfields Assessment Grant.

Emphasis was placed on identifying that the grant funding will include:

  • Community Outreach
  • Phase I and Phase II Environmental Site Assessments
  • Site Clean-Up Planning

Attendees learned about specific steps involved in the process of determining site eligibility along with a primer on what defines a brownfield site.

The meetings concluded with important reasons to do this work:

  • Increasing the Local Tax Base
  • Encouraging Redevelopment
  • Use of Existing Infrastructure
  • Facilitating Job Growth
  • Improving and Protecting the Environment

Selection Forms were distributed along with other informational materials.

Grant Activities Planned in 2024

  • Continued Acceptance of Potential Sites to be Considered for Assessment
  • Formation of the Brownfield Advisory Board
  • Implement Ranking System for Site Consideration
  • Ongoing Community Outreach
  • Property Owner Outreach for Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessments
  • Eligibility Assessment with USEPA

Sign Up/Stay in Touch

Sign up to be notified of updates and upcoming community meeting dates.

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Contact Us

Further information on this USEPA Assessment Grant, please contact:

Doug Pryor
President & CEO

Will County Center for Economic Development

Kristin Erickson
Grant Project Manager

Will County Center for Economic Development