NJIT Technical Assistance to Brownfield Communities Program

FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Brownfields Site?

EPA defines Brownfields sites as real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. The exact number of Brownfields sites in the United States is unknown, with estimates ranging from thousands to 500,000 sites. These sites range in size from very small parcels of less than an acre that could have occupied a former gasoline station to sites of several hundred or thousand acres that could have accommodated a former steel mill or military installation. Brownfields sites are distributed throughout the country but major concentrations are in the northeast and mid-west where much of the heavy industrial or other economic activity was historically based.

Brownfield sites also include, but are not limited to, three specific types of properties eligible for funding:

  • sites contaminated by petroleum or a petroleum product;
  • sites contaminated by controlled substances; and,
  • mine-scarred lands.

What are the benefits of redeveloping a Brownfield site?

There are numerous economic, environmental and social benefits that a community can expect upon the assessment and cleanup of brownfields sites. Examples of benefits include (but are not limited to):

  • Economic benefits include an increase in local tax base and new job growth. There are numerous tax incentives from both state and local governments available for brownfields projects.
  • Environmental/social benefits include: reuse of existing infrastructure, development pressure taken off undeveloped land, prevention of sprawl, cleaner air and reduced natural habitat destruction.
  • Up to 33% of assessments conducted with EPA Brownfield’s grants reveal that no clean up was necessary and that the site was ready for development. This quick re-use is good for the developer, the local government who has been losing tax revenue, and the local community who has been living with a potentially toxic site blighting their neighborhood.

What project economic/financial challenges linked to environmental cleanup need to be worked through for the brownfield redevelopment process to work?

Brownfield projects typically need additional up-front resources, and securing this financing can be a key barrier.  In addition to “regular” project financing needs, brownfields may face additional, immediate funding needs that Greenfield development does not:    

  • For site assessment, planning that incorporates environmental reclamation, and remediation
  • To cover additional underwriting and due diligence requirements that lenders may impose (because of the perceived higher risk of using a site with real or perceived contamination) 
  • For state voluntary cleanup and oversight programs costs
  • Additional site preparation, risk management expenses (including institutional control or contamination containment costs) 

What EPA sources are available for brownfields assessment and cleanup? 

A number of funding sources are available for brownfields cleanup at both the federal and state levels.  Federal funding sources include:

  • EPA Assessment Grants – The EPA provides funding for a grant recipient to inventory, characterize, assess, and conduct planning and community involvement related to brownfield sites.  For further information see "Assessment Funding Sources."
  • EPA Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) Grants - The EPA provides RLF grants allowing recipients to capitalize a revolving loan fund from which to provide loans and subgrants to carry out cleanup activities at brownfield sites.  For further information see "EPA Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) Grant ."
  • EPA Cleanup Grants - The EPA provides Cleanup grants to carry out cleanup activities at specific brownfield sites owned by the applicant.  For further information see "EPA Brownfield Cleanup Grant."

In addition to federal funding sources individual states may have their own brownfields redevelopment programs.  To find what funding programs may be available in your particular state please see “Key Contacts”.


What other federal sources are available for brownfield cleanup and redevelopment?   

Nearly two dozen federal programs have been tapped – typically as part of broader financing packages – to address, in total, the complete array of brownfield redevelopment needs: 

  • brownfield redevelopment/revitalization planning
  • property acquisition
  • environmental site assessment
  • removal or remediation of contamination 
  • site clearance, demolition, and debris removal
  • installation or upgrade of necessary infrastructure
  • rehabilitation of buildings as part of redevelopment
  • construction of related improvements that enhance property value and improve its marketability 

Depending on specific need and intended reuse, the most commonly used federal programs include: 

  • HUD’s Community Development Block Grants (CDBG)
    • CDBG “entitlement” grants are allocated annually to cities with more than 50,000 people; small cities can apply to their states for competitive CDBG grants (with states setting project priorities) 
    • One of the most flexible federal sources, CDBG can address conditions of slums and blight – including cleanup and most other brownfield needs
  • HUD’s Brownfield Economic Development Initiative (BEDI) grants
    • BEDI is a competitive economic development program that addresses contamination and redevelopment issues (such as cleanup, demolition, removal) that inhibit reuse of brownfield properties, in order to create jobs and economic opportunities for low- and moderate-income persons.
    • BEDI, which must be applied in tandem with a HUD Section 108 loan guarantee (see following), can address virtually any brownfield need
  • HUD’s Section 108 loan guarantees
    • Section 108 leverages private capital, using CDBG as collateral, for bricks-and-mortar development projects too large for single year CDBG allocations
    • Section 108 can be used for cleanup, and often covers up-front site preparation and infrastructure upgrading costs
  • EDA’s public works program
    • The Economic Development Administration (EDA) public works program provides investment capital to communities to support commercial and industrial development – which often includes industrial park modernization, incubator development commercial campus upgrading, or main street revitalization  
    • Public works funding can be used for cleanup as part of redevelopment, and often focuses on reuse of brownfield sites and facilities 
  • EDA’s economic dislocation program
    • EDA provides revolving loan fund capitalization grants to distressed communities dealing with both long-term economic decline, or “sudden and severe” problems, such as a plant closing
    • EDA-funded RLFs can be used to deal with a range of brownfield-related needs, as part of a community’s economic recovery strategy
  • USDA rural development programs
    • 3 key programs – business and industry loans and grants, community facilities loans and grants, intermediary re-lending (to communities to support private development activities) – can address the full range of brownfield needs as part of the development project
    • Programs are targeted according to community size – primary focus is on communities smaller than 10,000 people   
  • DOT highway, road, and transit construction and rehabilitation programs
    • In March 2009, DOT re-affirmed its policy of allowing its program funds to be used for cleanup (including capping) on sites integral to transportation projects – improved access can add value to adjoining brownfield properties  

In addition, several federal tax incentives can be linked to brownfield redevelopment – at little or no cost to the community or project, providing key cash flow advantages that can make environmental costs manageable in a project’s bottom line:

  • Federal Brownfield Tax Incentive
    • The only federal brownfield incentive targeted to private site owners, it allows cost recovery of remediation and related expenses (such as VCP fees and installation of institutional controls) in the year incurred, rather than capitalized over as long as 29 years
    • Set to expire at the end of 2009, Congress is expected to renew it 
  • Historic rehabilitation tax credits
    • Most commonly used federal tax incentive, it offers a 20% credit against rehabilitation expenses of historic properties (which can include activities such as cleaning and reinstalling windows with lead based paint, etc.)  
    • 10% credit available for work on “old” (i.e., pre-1936) buildings – advantageous for many brownfield projects
  • Low-income housing tax credits
    • Allocated by states to encourage affordable housing development, often syndicated (sold-off) by lenders or developers to raise upfront project cash
    • Credits offer a return-on-investment cushion that can make brownfield site use financially attractive
  • New markets tax credits
    • Offers 39% federal income tax credit to investors in distressed, low-income communities – common brownfield locations – primarily for commercial, community development, and housing projects 
    • Investments made via “certified development entities” can support full range of property development activities and end uses

Other agencies with programs that have been packaged for brownfield success include:

  • EPA’s clean water and drinking water revolving loan funds (with priorities – that can include site cleanup – set by states)  
  • SBA small business loan guarantees, development company (Section 504) debentures, and microloans
  • Army Corps of Engineer’s cost-shared planning, shoreline stabilization, and similar projects (which can be applied in brownfield situations)
  • Industrial development bonds, for the full range of manufacturing facility-related financing needs (with special ARRA/stimulus provisions expanding eligible facilities to “manufacturing related” through the end of 2010)
  • Energy efficiency construction credits

 For additional information and links to any of these federal programs, go to EPA.gov/brownfields and hit search for “Federal Programs Guide”


Who is eligible to apply for EPA grants?

The Brownfields law defines entities eligible to receive grants, based on the type of grant requested:

  • Assessment and revolving loan fund grants - state, local, and tribal governments, with the exception of Indian tribes in Alaska, as well as a range of government entities, including a general purpose unit of local government or land clearance authority or other quasi-governmental entity operating under the control, supervision, or as an agent of a local government, a governmental entity or redevelopment agency created or sanctioned by a State, or a regional council of governments, are eligible. An Alaska Native Regional Corporation and an Alaska Native Village Corporation, as those terms are defined in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, and the Metlakatla Indian community are eligible.  For further information go to ”Assessment Funding Sources” and “Revolving Loan Fund Grants”.
  • Cleanup grants - include those eligible governmental entities identified above as well as non-profit organizations and non-profit educational institutions. All eligible entities, including non-profit organizations, must have sole ownership of the site and provide documentation to demonstrate ownership (e.g. copy of the fee simple title) by June 30, 2009.  For further information go to "Cleanup Grants."
  • Job training grants -include those eligible governmental entities identified above as well as non-profit organizations, including non-profit educational institutions.
  • For-profit organizations are not eligible for Brownfields grant funding from EPA.

How do I submit my application and what is the deadline for submission in FY2013?

Proposals are due in Fall 2012.  Watch for more specifics on EPA’s website: http://www.epa.gov/swerosps/bf/index.html.  Applicants may submit their proposals through the U.S. Postal Service, commercial delivery service, or electronically through www.grants.gov. Only one method should be used for the submission of the original, complete proposal. Facsimile delivery of proposals and e-mailed submissions are not permitted and will not be considered.


I have secured either an EPA Brownfields Assessment Grant, EPA Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) Grant, or EPA Brownfields Cleanup Grant; what should my next steps be?

You have already taken the first step by visiting the NJIT TAB website. This website has been created with the intention of guiding both potential EPA grant applicants and EPA grantees through the brownfields redevelopment process.  The information contained in this website is intentionally presented in a user friendly format that takes an individual step by step through the redevelopment process with clear easy to understand topic summaries with links to current primary information sources.  To further assist in navigating the brownfield redevelopment process, you can contact either the NJIT TAB team or the appropriate federal or state contacts listed under "Key Contacts".


Who performs the Phase I Environmental Due Diligence and Phase II Environmental Assessment?

Typically the property owner or developer will hire a specialized consultant to perform Phase I Environmental Due Diligence and Phase II Environmental Assessment. An example of a Request for Proposal (RFP) to hire an environmental consultant to perform a Brownfield site assessment can be found at "Consultant Procurement".


If I am a successful applicant, will EPA reimburse me for the costs of paying a consultant to prepare my grant application?

No. Proposal preparation costs are prohibited administrative costs.


What are “Advanced Site Characterization Techniques” and how do they apply to brownfields redevelopment?

A new generation of site investigation tools have been developed over the last 10 years, and are now beginning to see wide spread application in delineating the extent of impacts at Brownfield sites. Examples of these tools include:

  • Membrane Interface Probe (MIP),
  • Hand Held XRF
  • Immunoassay test kits, and
  • Fuel Detector Probes.

These instruments are defined as near real-time measurement tools and can produce reliable data regarding contaminant concentrations when used by qualified personnel. Additionally, significant advances in data imaging software has occurred, resulting in the ability to create accurate 3D images that can be produced by standard computers (laptops). Applying these advanced site characterization techniques results in the combination of the data generating capacity of real time measurement devices, with the imaging software to produce depictions of the subsurface impacts. The benefits of using this approach on Brownfields include more accurate remediation cost estimates and more reliable remediation technology applications (targeting). The imaging also has applications as an effective community outreach communication tool. The pictorial depiction of the impacts demystifies environmental consequences and makes for better communication regarding the environmental issues at the Brownfield site in question, and what steps are going to be taken to remediate them.  For further information see "Establishing Remedial Action Plan".


Why is quality assurance and quality control a critical component of brownfields redevelopment?

It is critical that all of the activities involving planning, implementation, assessment, and reporting is of the quality required and expected from those charged with carrying them out.  Likewise, it is critical that a system be applied to all technical activities (including checks on sampling and analysis) that measure the performance of a process against defined standards to verify that they meet predefined requirements.  Errors can occur, and to avoid the use of incorrect data in the decision making process, which would ultimately cause delay of the redevelopment process, a QA/QC system that meets current standards must be employed.   For further information see "Quality Assurance for Site Assessments".


What are some of the environmental factors that influence future potential land use for a brownfield site?

Some of the environmental factors that influence the potential land use for a brownfield site include:

  • type of contamination found;
  • extend of contamination; and
  • selected remedial action.

All of these factors will determine whether a site can be cleaned up to the extent that it is safe for residential use or whether industrial uses such as warehousing/distribution centers are more appropriate. In certain circumstances environmental impacts may be left in place and isolated for the surface by an engineering control such as a cap. A deed notice is required such that written documentation is filed at the land records office that testifies to the presence of the contamination and the method used to cover it. Sometimes a land use restriction is required as well.  For further information see "Institutional Controls."


When is the brownfields redevelopment process considered complete?

A brownfield project is typically considered complete at the conclusion of construction, when ownership and leasing transactions have been finalized, and the land is occupied and operating as intended reuse.  However, it is important to note that brownfield redevelopment does not always have to result in a building being placed on the cleaned up property.  Many communities remediate brownfield properties and reuse them for open space and recreational opportunities, sometimes as part of a multi-use development, sometimes as a stand alone project.  For further information see "Completion and Formal Opening."


Who is responsible for long term operations and maintenance of remedial systems and other engineering controls (ECs)?

Typically, the property owner is responsible for the long term operation and maintenance of any remedial systems such as groundwater pump and treatment systems, and may be required to submit monitoring reports on a periodic basis to the appropriate agency charged with regulatory oversight.  For further information go to "Brownfield Post-Development Site Management".


If funds have been expended at a site under an EPA cleanup grant, can additional brownfields funding be provided for additional cleanup work at the same site?

Yes, an EPA cleanup grant recipient may apply for additional funding through an EPA brownfields revolving loan fund. A cleanup grant recipient may also request that a state or tribe conduct additional cleanup with CERCLA 128(a) State and Tribal Response Program funding. A city/town or other eligible entity may also apply for a cleanup grant for a site on which a state or tribe has already expended CERCLA 128(a) funds. 

Many states have their own public funding available for remediation and reuse of brownfields.  The funds may be in the form of grants, loans, or tax credits or refunds from new tax revenue generated by the new use of the property.  There may be limits on who is eligible to receive the funds (for example, the discharger of the contamination being cleaned up isn't usually eligible).  Check your state's environmental agency and economic development agency websites for more information.   USEPA encourages its grant applicants to leverage the use of other public and private funding or resources to complete the transformation of the brownfield properties in your communities into new, viable uses.  Using available state funding together with USEPA grant funding is a terrific example of leveraging.