Brownfield land is land that has been used previously for industrial or certain commercial uses. Brownfield land may have been contaminated with hazardous waste or pollution. Or it may be feared to be polluted with hazardous waste. Once Brownfield land is cleaned up it can become a business development or a retail shopping center. If land is more heavily contaminated and it has high concentrations of hazardous waste or pollution does not fall under the Brownfield classification.
The term brownfields first started to be used in June of 1992 at U.S. congressional field hearing that was hosted by the Northeast Midwest Congressional Coalition. The United States Environmental Protection picked Cuyahoga County as its first brownsfield pilot project in September of 1993.
Most commonly brownfield sites are in a city or town’s industrial area. They can be found on locations where factories and commercial buildings have been abandoned or where there were other known polluting operations. Some brownfields sites are also found in older residential neighborhoods. For instance, dry cleaning establishments and gas stations have been known to produce high levels of surface contaminants from prior operations and the land they are on can sit idle for decades.
The typical contaminates found on brownfield sites include hydrocarbon spillages, solvents, and pesticides. They can also include heavy metals like lead. Some older sites may be contaminated with asbestos. Old maps may be helpful in identifying properties that need to be tested.
Many different innovative financial and remediation techniques have been used in the U.S. in recent years to attempt to cleanup brownfield sites. For instance, certain environmental firms have come together with insurance companies to underwrite the cleanup of distressed brownfield properties and give a guaranteed cleanup cost for certain brownfield properties. This is meant to limit land developers exposure to environmental remediation expenses and pollution lawsuits. Before any of this happens the environmental firm performs an extensive investigation of the brownfield site to make sure the cleanup cost is reasonable and they won’t have to deal with any surprises.