Here’s the dirt: The City of North Charleston has a new pot of money to test the dirt.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency has awarded a $400,000 grant to the city to provide soil tests for former chemical sites around town. It’s part of $2 million in competitive grants the agency distributed this week to South Carolina communities for similar work.

The money will be used to analyze soil at former industrial sites or locations where chemicals have been used in the past. The work will determine if there’s been any contamination that would have to be cleaned up before the site is redeveloped, says Shannon Praete, the city’s grant administrator. Half of the grant money can be used for any site in the city and the other half is set aside specifically for former petroleum sites, including abandoned gas stations.

Particular sites that will be tested will be identified after the city gets community input and determines properties that have the most potential for development. If a site is studied and found to require clean-up, the city can make another request for further EPA aid, Praete says.

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