Getting Started with your Brownfields

June 12, 2018 Brownfields, News Brian Nowakowski

Abandoned properties plague communities across the country. We’ve previously outlined a general strategy for managing abandoned properties. Many of them, however, have been contaminated by prior industrial use. As a result, these brownfield sites have added challenges when trying to redevelop them.

Brownfield redevelopment has many benefits.
Redeveloping a brownfield improves the local environment, increases quality of life for residents, and expands the tax base. One study found that property values surrounding a brownfield increased by an average of 5.0% – 11.5% following a cleanup. Another study found a significant increase in property tax revenue from properties surrounding a remediated brownfield.

Ok, you’re convinced.

So where do you start?
The first step is to conduct a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (Phase I ESA). If you have multiple brownfields, you should first inventory and prioritize the sites for redevelopment. (We’ll talk about that process in a future article.) The Phase I ESA will look for potentially contaminated areas and will establish liability protection if following the ASTM All Appropriate Inquiry pre-acquisition requirements. The Phase I ESA may conclude that your site is not contaminated. Congratulations! But, it may find that…

Some areas may require further investigation.
The next step is a Phase II ESA. Each potentially contaminated area will be investigated via sampling during this phase. Samples will be analyzed at a laboratory and the results will be compared to Federal and State limits. The results may determine that your site is not contaminated at levels that require more work. Congratulations again! But if there is contamination, then you’ll need to…

Develop a clean-up plan.
Possible remedies can vary widely. They can range from limiting the future use of the site to excavating contaminated soil. It’s usually most cost-effective to implement the clean-up during the site’s redevelopment. Your consultant can recommend a clean-up that’s best for your situation.

Final thoughts
You’ve likely realized that all of this work costs money. But know that EPA offers grants that can help with all phases of work discussed here. Your project may also qualify for funding from other Federal or State programs. Such grants are typically applied for early winter. This year, EPA will be expanding the grant eligibility to include a bigger pool of applicants.

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