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U.S. EPA and Hawaii Department of Health host inaugural meeting of the Pacific Basin Brownfields Response Team

Release Date: 02/07/2008
Contact Information: Dean Higuchi, 808-541-2711, higuchi.dean@epa.gov

(02/07/08) HONOLULU – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Hawaii Department of Health are hosting a meeting of environmental officials from the Pacific Territories to improve Pacific Island environmental response programs.

Officials from Guam, American Samoa, Commonwealth of Northern Marianas, State of Hawaii, and U.S. EPA will lay the foundation for a Pacific Basin Brownfields Response Team. The goal is to build stronger and more effective programs to prevent and respond to chemical contamination on land and water. The team will allow for informational sharing and collaboration between the environmental officials working on brownfields response programs.

“The workshop will give Pacific Island environmental officials the opportunity to form a long-term collaborative working group to share their expertise and experience. As a result, we expect their response programs will become much more effective,” said John McCarroll, manager for the EPA Pacific Southwest region’s Pacific Islands office. “EPA is using its programs, authorities, and grants to enhance the islands’ response programs. This will improve the environment of the Pacific Islands.”

The inaugural meeting will be held in Honolulu on February 11-13, 2008. The EPA estimates there are 450,000 abandoned sites contaminated with hazardous chemicals – known as “brownfields” – and sponsoring this meeting is part of the agency’s program to encourage cleanup and redevelopment of brownfields sites.

“This inaugural event and future meetings will allow us to share our successes, experiences, and tools as we work to improve our response programs and clean up contaminated land throughout the Pacific islands,” said Laurence Lau, Deputy Director for Environmental Health, Hawaii Department of Health.
“These meetings will strengthen our communications network and form the heart of our collaborative effort to improve our programs.”

The EPA’s brownfields program encourages redevelopment of America's estimated 450,000 abandoned and contaminated waste sites. Since the beginning of the program, the EPA has awarded 1,067 assessment grants totaling more than $262 million, 217 revolving loan fund grants totaling more than $201.7 million, and 336 cleanup grants totaling $61.3 million.

In addition to industrial and commercial redevelopment, brownfields approaches have included the conversion of industrial waterfronts to riverfront parks, landfills to golf courses, rail corridors to recreational trails, and gas stations to housing. EPA's brownfields assistance has leveraged more than $9.6 billion in cleanup and redevelopment, helped create more than 43,029 jobs and resulted in the assessment of more than 10,504 properties and the cleanup of 180 properties.

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