GREEN Topic: Brownfields
Technology Snapshot & Benefits: Brownfields, with certain legal exclusions and additions, are real properties of which the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. Brownfield sites typically exist in industrial areas, or in abandoned mines that have contaminated large acres of land. Contaminated sites differ significantly and can be the result of storage, or disposal of various products or chemicals. Redevelopment of brownfields is possible and has become more popular in recent history with the advancement of new technologies and regulations. Several federal and state programs have been created to regulate investigations and assist in the clean up of these contaminated sites. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it is estimated that there are more than 450,000 brownfields in the U.S.
Issues: Waste and contaminated lands are particularly important to environmental health because they may expose land and living organisms to harmful material if they are not properly managed. Municipal solid waste, hazardous waste, and radioactive waste are the only types of waste that are consistently tracked on a national basis. Many states have information about contaminated sites within their boundaries. Aggregated data for the whole nation generally does not exist. The most toxic abandoned waste sites in the nation are listed on the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL).
Testing and Cost: A Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) is a relatively non-intrusive background and historical investigation, as well as a preliminary site inspection. The Phase I ESA is designed to be a cost effective overview of a site which identifies indications of recognized environmental conditions. To keep the cost of the investigation at a reasonable level, the typical Phase I ESA involves no collection or testing of samples and is limited to information available through public sources, interviews, or first hand observation. Conducting a Phase I ESA allows a buyer to determine if there is an indication of a problem or an increased risk associated with a particular property, and whether or not a Phase II ESA is necessary. A Phase II Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) is more extensive and is often recommended after a Phase I analysis. A Phase II includes sampling activities (typically involving soil, air, and water) to identify contaminants and their concentrations, as well as the areas of contamination to be cleaned. Phase II assessments involve the collection of samples for analysis, and often require several rounds of testing before the evaluation is complete.
Redevelopment (Cleaning it Up): The EPA states that cleaning up and reinvesting in brownfield sites increases local tax bases, facilitates job growth, utilizes existing infrastructure, takes development pressures off of undeveloped, open land, and both improves and protects the environment.
Videos on This Topic:
Recovering Brownfields (8:48) – OnQ – Brownfields, or sites where some form of pollution or contaminant has prohibited expansion, can be recovered and reinvigorated to allow space for new developments. In this video, find out about how Pittsburg was able to transform brownfields into areas where properties could be built.