A brownfield is a property which is contaminated with a variety of chemicals that are embedded either in the earth and/or water beneath it. A brownfield site is a property which is being considered for redevelopment or reuse. There are about 450,000 brownfields in the United States. A brownfield may be a very valuable piece of property which when properly evaluated for types and quantity of contamination and then safely cleaned up, could be used for reinvesting in the community, increasing the tax base, providing new sources of employment as well as new commercial and residential areas. Problems in converting the brownfield site include environmental liability for the past and the future of the property; financial barriers by private lenders because of the impaired land; the nature and cost of the clean-up operations; and the reuse planning which must be based on community goals, and sound economic and environmental information.
Best Practices in Reusing Brownfield Sites
• Search for the responsible parties that caused the contamination. Even if the companies are out of business, the successor companies are responsible for the clean-up costs of the brownfield sites.
• Conduct a comprehensive survey of the given community to determine the location, size, quantity and level of contamination of brownfield sites that could be redeveloped.
• Determine which of the brownfield sites should be given priority to fit into the overall community plan development and redevelopment and do environmental assessments to find out the specific problems that need to be rectified and the cost of this action. Also determine if a clean title to land can be obtained.
• Identify and involve critical participants including local public health officials in all phases of the brownfield planning, transaction and redevelopment and how best to effectively use the land, how best to get various types of financing, determining any tax credits, tax abatements or grants that can be used for the project. This would include property owners, public and private stakeholders, attorneys, local, state and federal government officials, and other interested people.
• Conduct a thorough cleanup of the site based on the environmental survey conducted. Redevelopment can go on at the same time as cleanup, to avoid downtime and additional cost.
• Establish a long-term management and maintenance program where needed, especially when water pumps and treatment systems are required to make sure that the site stays clean and uncontaminated.