The Metropolitan Council gave initial approval this week to about $4 million in grants to clean up polluted sites around the metro area, largely in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

The council doles out the grants every year, in addition to other money to aid development, through the Livable Communities Act program.

All but two of the cleanup grants will go toward projects in Minneapolis and St. Paul. If requests exceed available money, by law the central cities can receive no more than three-quarters of the available money, and no city can receive more than half of the funding.

The largest single grant, $750,000, will remove asbestos and lead-based paint from the former Pioneer Press building in downtown St. Paul, so the property can be converted into affordable housing and retail space. That project is separately seeking $250,000 through another Met Council grant program.

Another major recipient was United Properties’ Nordic House development in Minneapolis, which will receive $500,000 to dispose of contaminated soil from a surface parking lot in the North Loop. The development is expected to feature office, retail and apartments.

Outside of the two cities, grants aided projects in South St. Paul and Edina.

Met Council planner Marcus Martin said several requests were not funded. Other projects in Minneapolis would have meant surpassing the funding limits. Another five projects did not score high enough in an evaluation.

Gary Cunningham, the council’s Community Development Committee chairman, asked staff to gather information about the program’s outcomes, such as the number of jobs created, over the two decades it has existed.

“Over time, we’ve had a lot of these projects. How often have they met the mark?” Cunningham asked.

The full council will act on the grants on Wednesday. The agency will accept applications for the next round of cleanup grants in November.