Technology Snapshot &
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
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it is estimated that there are more than 450,000 brownfields in the
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).
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.
(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:
(8:48) - OnQ -
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.
Information on This Topic:
National Brownfield Associations
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Brownfields and Land Revitalization
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Environmental Indicators Initiative
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: National Priorities List
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Where You Live - Search Your Community
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Targeted Brownfields Assessments
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: About Brownfields
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Brownfields and Land Revitalization Action
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: "Anatomy of a Brownfields Redevelopment"