Brownfield Site Basics: What to Expect

We’ve all heard the term “Brownfields.” For many, it’s a lackluster term that elicits visions of a brown ugly piece of land – and often that description is not too far off!  For others, it’s a potential diamond in the rough that just needs the right cut and a little polishing to make it shine.

Brownfield sites are abandoned, idled or underused industrial and commercial properties where there is real or perceived contamination that is inhibiting the redevelopment of that property.

Prior to the Land Recycling Act in 1992 (and subsequent revisions), redevelopment of Brownfield sites was uncommon as many potential buyers/developers were  concerned that they would be responsible for the contamination that they knew, or thought was there.  The Land Recycling Act changed that by formalizing a voluntary cleanup process and the associated liability assurances that are available today. In Minnesota, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) leads the Brownfields Program.

Redeveloping a Brownfield site can be costly and time-consuming. It is best to be proactive with these sites and hire an environmental consultant at the front end of the process. Here is what to expect:

  • Appropriate scope of work is determined. Most commonly in the form of a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA), this will uncover historical and current uses of the site that may have resulted in contamination at the property.
  • Site Investigation. To develop a response action plan that maps out how the contamination will be dealt with during redevelopment.
  • Compliance with MPCA Brownfield program. Throughout the process, it is essential to work closely with the MPCA to obtain all of the right liability assurance letters that the MPCA Brownfield program offers.

As a leader in brownfield redevelopment consulting, Braun Intertec has helped hundreds of clients through this process, as well as helped them to evaluate if their sites are good candidates for grant funding, which can offset or cover investigation and cleanup costs. The grant funding application process occurs twice a year and requires regulatory approvals. To avoid schedule hang-ups, make sure to discuss potential grant funding early in the process.

It’s always cheaper to be proactive than reactive when dealing with brownfield sites. Hire an experienced consulting firm early on and you will avoid many of the pitfalls associated with brownfield redevelopment. For more information on brownfield sites, contact Mark Ciampone, or one of our experienced environmental consulting staff.

Mark Ciampone Senior Scientist

P: 651.487.7015