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Northwest Indiana's efforts to rehabilitate brownfields in Gary, Hammond and East Chicago received a boost last week from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Brownfields Program. A $600,000 grant will be used to conduct environmental site assessments, prepare cleanup plans, and implement community outreach activities.

Properties in Gary, Hammond, and East Chicago will be investigated for environmental contamination that can be a barrier to the reuse of an abandon factory or commercial building, according to EPA. The award is the 12th grant to promote brownfield redevelopment and job training in Lake County. The current grant was awarded to a partnership of the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission, the Regional Development Authority and Northwest Indiana Forum.

"We’re very grateful to have EPA continue to invest in our region and our new coalition with the RDA and the Northwest Indiana Forum, continuing the drive to make Northwest Indiana an attractive and clean place to do business and grow a regional economy,” NIRPC Executive Director Ty Warner said.

RDA President and CEO Bill Hanna noted a 2014 grant for $1.4 million from the program.

"That has helped to pay for assessment and clean-up planning on about 27 sites, and cleanup actions at approximately 30 locations," Hanna said. "One site in East Chicago is now a dialysis center and another will soon be more than 200 units of senior housing.”

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Northwest Indiana Forum President and CEO Heather Ennis said brownfields are a focus for development agencies.

“Brownfield redevelopment is a critical economic development focus for the Northwest Indiana region," she said. "By partnering with the RDA and NIRPC, the forum is excited to implement great projects in Northwest Indiana with this EPA brownfield grant.”

Brownfields are properties whose redevelopment or reuse is complicated by the presence of hazardous materials or pollutants.

U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Gary, congratulated the organizations for earning the grant.

“I am grateful for the years of consistent and dedicated efforts of NIRPC, the Northwest Indiana Forum, and the RDA, to grow our regional economy and improve our quality of place," he said.

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Assistant Deputy Editor

Andrew covers transportation, real estate, casinos and other topics for The Times business section. A Crown Point native, he joined The Times in 2014, and has more than 15 years experience as a reporter and editor at Region newspapers.