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DEEP Commissioner Klee praises Waterbury

Official praises Waterbury for redeveloping brownfields - By Andrew Larson/Republican-American

A state commissioner applauded the city’s efforts to remediate and redevelop brownfields, calling its success an example for cities throughout the state to follow.

Rob Klee, commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, toured former brownfield sites in the East End on Thursday.

"Waterbury has done a great job of figuring it out," Klee said.

State Rep. Selim Noujaim, R-74th District, gave Klee and two other DEEP officials a tour the Eastside Memorial Funeral Home and Waterbury Senior Center, on the once heavily contaminated site of Mattatuck Manufacturing Co., which closed in the 1980s and was demolished in 2002.

Noujaim secured $4 million in state grants for the cleanup, which was overseen by Waterbury Development Corp.

"We did not want to leave an eyesore in the city," Noujaim said.

The site, near the intersection of Southmayd Road and East Main Street, is now home to a lively Waterbury Senior Center, a Saint Mary’s Hospital outpatient center and a large funeral home that’s laid out like a hotel.

Klee also visited Fairlawn Park, which was renovated in 2007 and helped revitalize a neighborhood and reduced crime. Klee was so impressed he said he’d ask the city to host a No Child Left Inside event there.

The group also toured Chase School, where Noujaim hopes to "find some money for environmental enhancements."

The city has cleaned up other contaminated sites, including Waterbury Industrial Commons on Thomaston Avenue, which it’s developing into a manufacturing center.

Noujaim said the city’s success lies in its aggressive approach to remediation.

"Other cities have not been quite as proactive, quite honestly, as the city of Waterbury and it’s a tribute to the mayor’s office, WDC, the legislative delegation and all of us," Noujaim said.

Brownfield remediation and redevelopment will be a priority for the state this year, said Dennis Schain, spokesman for the DEEP.

Redevelopment of brownfields helps preserve open space by facilitating commercial development in areas that are already built up, he said.

"It’s good for the environment, it’s good for public health and it’s good for how the land is used," Schain said. "If you can develop a property in the heart of a city, there’s infrastructure, there’s transportation and you’re saving undeveloped land elsewhere."

Noujaim expects the General Assembly to pass legislation that offers tax benefits to businesses that take on environmental projects and that "remove some of the barriers for businesses."

During lunch, Klee announced that state Sen. Joan V. Hartley, D-15th District, will join Noujaim as co-chair of the state legislature’s manufacturing caucus this year.

"The manufacturing caucus is going to be a big proponent of cleanup and redevelopment of brownfields," Noujaim said.

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