A “brownfield” is a property that is expanded, redeveloped, or repurposed that is complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. It is estimated there are more than 450,000 brownfields sites in the United States (source: USEPA).
Environmental complications present at brownfield sites may include actual or suspected environmental contamination resulting from past uses, such as a dry-cleaning business that may have improperly disposed of chemical solvents down the drain thus contaminating soil and groundwater, or older buildings that may have been constructed with asbestos, lead or polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) paint, or PCB caulking, which are all serious health hazards when disturbed during demolition or renovation.
The redevelopment of brownfield properties can provide many benefits to a community, including the creation of opportunities to bring jobs back to blighted areas, an increased tax base, the utilization of existing infrastructure, reduction of urban heat islands, and increased community connectivity. The removal of contaminants in the area also helps to protect human health and the environment.
Legal liability is the main issues involving the redevelopment of a brownfield site. Many developers and investors shy away from the uncertainty of rehabilitation costs for contaminated sites. Other concerns include the highly technical nature of cleanup measures and land use objectives, time and financial concerns over cleanup activities required at the site, and the increased planning considerations with the communities.
Many states and municipalities seek to lessen the liability, uncertainty, and financial burden of cleaning up and rehabilitating brownfields properties. Grants and funds in many areas are set aside to help kick-start cleanup and redevelopment processes that ultimately results in positive benefits for the communities in which contaminated properties are located. These funds primarily help developers and property owner’s complete cleanup and redevelopment, by helping overcome the difficulty that they have securing financing for the remediation that is necessary to transform these areas into beneficial reuse for the community.
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