The Environmental Protection Agency awarded St. Louis Community College a $200,000 grant last week to support a job training program focused on cleaning up contaminated waste sites.
About 450,000 abandoned and contaminated waste sites exist across the country. Remediation of such sites requires special expertise on handling different types of waste, such as PCBs and lead. Training workers can help empower communities that are most burdened by toxic waste sites, said Stan Walker, the Brownfield and Land Revitalization Branch Director for EPA Region 7.
"Sometimes the people who are adversely affected don't reap the economic benefit within their community," Walker said. "This program provides them with adequate training, great training actually, and gives them the opportunity to be part of helping clean up their own community and reap the economic benefit to having a job."
Research has shown that addressing contaminated sites can increase property values within a mile by 5 percent to 15 percent on average.
This is the sixth round of federal funding the school has received to certify and equip workers with skills needed to remediate brownfields, which include stormwater management and lead and asbestos abatement.
"The unions, the trades very much value these employees because of the high need for these types of environmental remediation jobs on construction projects," St. Louis Community College Chancellor Jeff Pittman said.
Pittman added that several graduates of the program were a part of cleanup efforts in Eureka after major flooding along the Meramec River this month.
Since 2000, the program has produced 500 graduates. The grant covers the costs of training and enrollment.
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