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Historic school gets nearly $200,000 from EPA to remove asbestos


St. Matthew School Community Association, Inc., of Natchitoches Parish has been awarded $197,996 in brownfields funding by the Environmental Protection Agency to remove asbestos-containing materials.

The association is working to revitalize the site of the former St. Matthew High School, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the first public high school constructed for African Americans in the county. Plans include redeveloping the property into a cultural center that will offer health, employment, education and recreation programs.

“EPA uses the brownfields program to partner with communities, so we can give challenged properties new purpose and new life,” said EPA Regional Administrator Richard E. Greene. “This project is a great example of how cleaning up such sites is creating a healthier, more prosperous future for the next generation.”

The St. Matthew School Community Association grant is part of nearly $2 million in supplemental brownfields cleanup funding awarded by EPA nationwide. With the grant, the association will begin removal of pipe insulation, floor tiles and other materials that contain asbestos.

Brownfields are vacant, abandoned, or under-used properties where redevelopment may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of environmental contamination. EPA awarded $1.4 million in brownfields grants for projects in Lake Charles, Marrero, and New Orleans earlier this year. Since the beginning of the program in 1995, EPA Region 6 has provided more than $11 million for Louisiana brownfields projects.

EPA’s brownfields program encourages redevelopment of America’s estimated 450,000 abandoned and contaminated sites. Nationally, brownfields assistance has leveraged more than $9.8 billion in cleanup and redevelopment, helped create more than 43,900 jobs and resulted in the assessment of more than 11,500 properties and the cleanup of 180 properties. EPA Region 6 accounts for 25 percent, or $2 billion, of the funding leveraged across the nation.


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