City acquires Risdon site

By:  Caleb Bedillion

WATERBURY — Waterbury has acquired the former Risdon Manufacturing site, city officials announced during a Wednesday visit by Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.

Murphy and Waterbury Mayor Neil M. O'Leary visited sites eyed for redevelopment in Waterbury's South End and on Freight Street.

O'Leary and Murphy both emphasized that the economic health and future vitality of Waterbury and the Naugatuck Valley region depends on the ability to restore brownfields sites and put them back into productive use.

"The only way cities like Waterbury can survive is to get these properties back on the tax rolls in meaningful ways," O'Leary said.

To that goal, O'Leary described the Risdon property as a large site with "enormous economic development capacity."

The former Risdon Manufacturing building is an 80,000-square-foot warehouse sitting on a 25-acre property at 2100 South Main St.

Murphy swung through Waterbury as part of a Wednesday tour of regional brownfields sites, areas contaminated by past industrial usage.

Murphy also toured brownfields in Derby, Torrington and Bridgeport.

Murphy and O'Leary began the Waterbury stop at the back end of a 17-acre lot that was formerly home to Anamet, a metal hose factory located off Washington Street.

Environmental studies are being done on the Anamet property now to determine contamination levels. O'Leary said the city hopes to acquire the property soon.

Due to its location on the Naugatuck River, O'Leary believes the Anamet property could be put back into productive use soon.

For his part, Murphy pledged a commitment to go after all the federal dollars he can garner for brownfields remediation.

This commitment involves two efforts. First, of the federal grant funds available for brownfields remediation, Murphy said he wants to ensure a sizable share comes to the Naugatuck Valley.

"It's a matter of fairness," Murphy said.

He pointed to the manufacturing history of the Northeast as a significant component of industrialization in the United States. However, this manufacturing heritage has left many communities in Connecticut and beyond saddled with brownfields.

Murphy said the total amount of such federal funds for remediation efforts must be increased. Currently, Murphy said, the federal government sets aside a little less than $200 million for brownfields remediation annually.

"That's just not enough, the senator said.

He tied this claim to efforts undertaken by Democrats in the U.S. Senate and House to lift domestic spending caps imposed by previous sequestration agreements.

Beyond a push for additional federal dollars, Murphy also emphasized the need to develop a regional strategy for dealing with brownfields. Cooperation is in the interest of the entire area.

Said Murphy, "As Waterbury does better, the region does better. As the towns around Waterbury do better, Waterbury does better."

Murphy said remediation of properties in the city is a top priority.