Scientist: Louisville’s environment, economy winners as toxic sites transform

Scientist: Louisville’s environment, economy winners as toxic sites transform

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) – Success stories from the Kentucky brownfield redevelopment program tell a tale of transforming toxins into tax dollars.

Louisville scientists told WAVE 3 News they believe changes to the state program years ago are now paying dividends when it comes to creating jobs and places to play.

At the UofL library, the UofL Eco-Reps Program brought students and staff together Friday to listen to an industry professional discuss how his work is helping achieve that.

Eco-Reps is an ongoing peer-to-peer sustainability outreach and education program. The group invites the public to campus monthly for similar discussions over lunch.

Bill Johnston, the Principal Geologist at Linebach Funkhouser, Inc., showed the group before-and-after pictures on Friday of sites his company has worked.

Among the photo-line up were Colonial Gardens, the new West End YMCA, a HopCat location and Lynn Family Stadium in Butchertown.

​They were all once considered brownfields, places where often industrial chemicals left soil contaminated, which developers become wary of buying. ​

“Sites get turned toxic, they become unusable,” Brian Barnes, the Director of the UofL Eco-Reps Program, said.

That's often because property owners can be held liable for the hazards.

About five years ago, Johnston said the state brownfield redevelopment program changed.

Among other things, liability was lifted from new owners if they agreed to help restore the sites to safety.

"It entices even outside investors from other states to want to invest in our state and basically in our community," Johnston said.

Johnston said whether from out of state or in-state investors, some previously dilapidated sites are Louisville's newest job creators and contributing to the city tax roll, which can partially be credited to the redevelopment program.

“We spend a lot of time in places, right? And they really impact us,” Barnes said.

The UofL Eco-Reps said that a lot of projects on their campus are also part of the program.

Copyright 2020 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.