The City of Pittsburg
Pittsburg is a growing city in Crawford County located in the southeastern corner of Kansas. Over a century ago, Pittsburg’s readily available coal resources made the city an attractive place for industry. From zinc to bricks, manufacturing was- and still is- a vital part of Pittsburg’s economy.
Today in addition to manufacturing, Pittsburg’s economy is bolstered jobs in higher education and health care.
Pittsburg’s population is approximately 20,300 and has been steadily growing for the past three decades. As the population grows in Pittsburg, there is a renewed interest in re-purposing now vacant industrial sites.
The Mid-City Renaissance area was the site of numerous smelters and a clay and brick manufacturing operation. Those industries thrived using massive amounts of coal and access to the the cross country railways- two things Pittsburg offered.
Some of the by products of zinc smelting and intensive coal burning are heavy metals and petroleum residues. A century ago, when our understanding of biology was limited, industrial waste was cast off and forgotten. Over the past 40 years our collective understanding of ecosystems and pollution has expanded and the mitigation of industrial waste has become a national priority.
The stigma of pollution has weighed heavily on the redevelopment efforts of many underutilized industrial sites across the country. The perceived threat of being held liable for someone else’s pollution and the uncertainty of how much pollution is actually in the ground can scare off potential investors.
New Approaches to Brownfield Mitigation
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has learned that dealing with underutilized sites with potential contamination is best done on a community level. Each community has its own unique circumstances so the planning efforts to put vacant industrial sites back into productive use should be done by and for the community.
The City of Pittsburg applied for, and received, a competitive Brownfields Area-Wide Planning Program (BF AWP) Grant in 2015. This grant was designed for communities that struggle with the challenges presented by a concentration of brownfield sites in a particular area, such as a neighborhood, downtown district, or local commercial corridor. The grant provides funding for a comprehensive planning effort for the Mid-City site that incorporates professionals from the public policy and environmental engineering fields as well as community organizations and the local university. This cross-sectional, collaborative approach to brownfield planning has proven to be successful at provoking catalytic change.