What is a Brownfield?
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines Brownfield 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. Brownfield sites are distributed throughout the country but major concentrations are in the northeast and mid-west where much of the heavy industrial and manufacturing activity was historically based.
The type of contamination problems at Brownfield sites also varies widely. These may include: asbestos; leaking underground storage tanks that generally cause petroleum contamination; and soil and water contamination caused by the discharge or dumping of organic and inorganic chemicals such as petrochemicals, solvents, heavy metals, and lead. Not all Brownfield sites are environmentally contaminated; some sites are merely perceived to be contaminated. Brownfield sites usually contain moderate to low levels of contamination. They usually do not represent the type of contamination problems dealt with under Federal and State Superfund programs.
Why Redevelop Brownfields?
There are many advantages to successful Brownfields Redevelopment:
- improvement of local ecology
- urban renewal
- restoration of quality of life
- reinvestment in land and communities
- increased property values
- improvement of community images
- protection of human health