By Monique Scott
BU News Service
BOSTON – State officials announced Thursday that Fitchburg’s Central Steam Plant site is one of the five brownfield areas that will be targeted for cleanup so it may one day be redeveloped and create jobs.
“This is a positive opportunity for Fitchburg. This site is close to the Wachusett Station and is a prime location for economic redevelopment,” said Rep. Stephen DiNatale, D-Fitchburg, referring to the commuter rail station under construction in West Fitchburg.
“The Central Steam Plant is one of the most challenging sites in the city to redevelop,” said Fitchburg Mayor Lisa Wong, who attended the announcement. “Being a part of the state’s targeted cleanup program will greatly increase the likelihood this site will be turned into something the community will value.”
The 4-acre site was contaminated with materials containing asbestos used in the construction of the steam plant building, and oil spilled in a recent act of vandalism. The contamination is a threat to groundwater.
During Thursday’s meeting at the Statehouse to announce the work, Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray said Fitchburg is ready to “reclaim” the Central Steam Plant site.
Murray said he sees this opportunity to help meet critical goals and revitalize the property.
In 2008, Gov. Deval Patrick and Murray launched the first round of projects for the Brownfield Support Team, which seeks out polluted sites and works with state and local government to develop a cleanup plan. Since then, the team has brought together local, federal, and state agencies.
“We provided not only technical assistance, but financial support to create launching pads for economic development,” said Murray.
Over the past several years, the Brownfields group has tackled some of the state’s major contaminated sites and worked closely with all levels of government, delivering more than $18 million in funds for cleanup activities at more than 300 acres of valuable property.
Murray said he has always been confident the program is an “effective tool,” for cities and towns.
“We have projects that are regionally diverse with opportunities that will lead to public-private partnerships, job creation and community and economic development,” he said.
Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, D-Leominster, said she’s ready for redevelopment of the Fitchburg site.
“At one time, the Central Steam Line Plant was a staple in the Fitchburg community, and today the site could benefit from the services offered by the Brownfield Support Team,” she said.
Shyla Matthews, MassDevelopment’s vice president of community development, said although each site differs with different deadlines for the various projects, citizens will be able to see a difference.
Matthews also said she believed the work will reduce the 8.2 percent unemployment rate in Fitchburg.
“This will help the economy,” said Matthews.
This will be the third round of the Brownfield’s Support Team initiative.
Included in this third round of targeted sites are Lower Millyard in Amesbury, the former Lewis Chemical site in Hyde Park, Ludlow Mills in Ludlow and the Payne Cutlery and former Elco Dress sites in New Bedford.
Reporter Alana Melanson contributed to this report.
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