SHELTON — The city’s downtown revitalization plan received a major financial boost Wednesday.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency awarded two grants to Shelton totaling $700,000 for brownfield study and cleanup along Canal Street.

“Once a thriving manufacturing area, this section of Shelton has been dormant due to the contamination of the properties over many years," said Mayor Mark Lauretti, who has worked to obtain millions of dollars of state and federal brownfields grants for nearly three decades.

“Today, the city of Shelton, in partnership with the EPA, DEEP and NVCOG, will be able to remediate these properties and allow the city's unprecedented development to continue in areas that were once contaminated and useless,” he said. “The residents of the city will now benefit from the cleanup of our environment and allow economic development to proceed.”

Lauretti said his administration has enjoyed a successful track record of using state and federal grants along with city dollars to clean up depressed sites and make them viable, including the former BF Goodrich site and the former Chromium Process site.

“The government got this right,” said Lauretti, a frequent critic of state and federal leaders, about the brownfields grant program. “Private owners can walk away from these sites ... then 20, 30, 40 years later, these properties are a real mess ... unproductive, illegal activity occurring on them. This is a good use of taxpayer money.”

Shelton was among five grantees in the state selected to receive $2.3 million for six projects to assess and clean up contaminated properties under the agency's Brownfields Program. The awards were designed to aid underserved and economically disadvantaged communities around the state in assessing and cleaning up abandoned industrial and commercial properties.

“I’m thrilled that the EPA has awarded $700,000 for brownfield study and cleanup along Canal Street,” said Congressman Jim Himes, D-Conn. “We’re going to need every tool at our disposal to help with economic recovery.”

Himes said funding the cleanup will remove dangerous chemicals, heavy metals and harmful organic materials from downtown, create jobs and allow for future economic development.

“It’s an investment in the health and prosperity of Shelton,” said Himes.

Jimmy Tickey, Planning and Zoning commissioner and one of the founders of Celebrate Shelton, called the grants an example of the federal government working closely with local partners for the future vitality of downtown Shelton.

“As a resident of downtown Shelton, I am eager to be a part of the next phase of remediation and development as downtown realizes its potential, whether it be an expanded walking path along the Housatonic River, unique shops or quality residences,” said Tickey, who also is Himes’ Connecticut district director.

The $200,000 assessment grant will be used to conduct two environmental site assessments. Grant funds also will be used to develop two cleanup plans and support community outreach and reuse planning activities.

“The target area for this grant is a one mile stretch of Canal Street from the Route 8 Commodore Hull Bridge to the Housatonic Canal Locks,” stated an EPA release. “Priority sites include the former Wilkinson Brothers site, a former paper mill and the former Better Packages site, a demolished former one-acre network of brick, steel and concrete buildings.”

The $500,000 cleanup grant is for the former Star Pin Manufacturing facility at 267 Canal St. The cleanup site was formerly used for pin manufacturing, metal plating, circuit building, electroplating and waste treatment and storage. It is contaminated with heavy metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and volatile organic compounds. Grant funds also will be used to conduct community involvement activities.

“Today's investment of EPA Brownfields assessment and cleanup funding provides a much-needed boost for economic development and job creation in many of New England's hardest hit and underserved communities,” said EPA New England Regional Administrator Dennis Deziel. “Brownfields projects are always an economic catalyst, and this funding has never been more important to our local partners.”

A brownfield is a contaminated site that, once cleaned up, can be repurposed or reused — not only cleaning up the environment but allowing the properties to be used for economic development in communities.

To date, EPA’s Brownfields program has helped clean up more than 2,000 properties and leverage more than 160,000 jobs.

“EPA's grants are a critical first step that paves the way for investment in brownfields by the state and by private developers,” said state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Katie Dykes. “DEEP greatly appreciates EPA's continuing commitment to brownfields redevelopment in Connecticut, and congratulates this year's recipients.”

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com