Benefits of brownfields redevelopment on display in the Sunshine State

December 12, 2013

Benefits of Brownfields

The Florida Brownfields Redevelopment Program was launched in 1997 after the state legislature passed the Brownfield Redevelopment Act. The statute specified a number of central goals for the program, including:

  • Reducing risks to public health and the environment at commercial and industrial sites that are vacant or underused due to their unsafe condition
  • Creating financial and regulatory incentives to encourage stakeholders to voluntarily conduct remediation and redevelopment operations at these sites
  • Applying Risk-Based Corrective Action principles
  • Providing the opportunity for all citizens and companies to enjoy environmental equity and justice.

In addition to providing the means of achieving these environmental goals, the Brownfields Program has also increasingly come to be viewed as an effective tool for promoting economic development in the state.

Capital investment and employment opportunities spring from remediated brownfields

In its annual report on the Brownfields Program for fiscal year 2012-13, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) noted that remediation and redevelopment activities in the state generated more than $800 million worth of capital investment last year, with almost 20,000 new jobs directly or indirectly created as a result. Jorge Caspary, director of the Division of Waste Management, highlighted these benefits in a press release introducing the report.

“Florida’s Brownfields Program continues to facilitate the successful redevelopment of underutilized areas throughout the state,” Caspary said. “This program not only makes it possible to mitigate contaminated sites, but also creates jobs and stimulates the economy in the process.”

In its 16-year history, the program has reportedly overseen the clean up of more than 60 brownfields, generating $2.4 billion worth of capital investment in formerly contaminated areas. The DEP estimates that these activities have created more than 50,000 jobs.

Although it will be some time before final numbers for 2013 are published, the initial projections described in the DEP’s report underscore the ongoing benefits that Florida’s robust environmental remediation and economic redevelopment program is creating for residents and businesses in the state.

How one town in Escambia County is capitalizing on the power of remediation

NorthEscambia.com recently discussed how the town of Century is proactively using the tools provided by the Brownfield Redevelopment Act to drive new economic opportunities.

Alger Sullivan operated a lumber mill in the area for most of the 20th century. After the company ceased operations at the site in the 1960s, the facility was used by several different manufacturing firms during the following decades. For instance, Wayne Dalton made doors there.

During the manufacturing process, wooden doors were dipped in a preservative called pentachlorophenol. Unfortunately, the company must not have had a sufficient spill prevention, control and countermeasure (SPCC) plan in place, because a release from a storage tank led to the contamination of the site.

Subsequently, the former Alger Sullivan mill was listed as a brownfield. In 2005, the Century Town Council voted to apply a provision of the Brownfield Redevelopment Act that allows municipalities to expand brownfields designations to cover their entire area. This provided property owners throughout the town with access to loan guarantees, sales tax credits, incentives for job creation and other benefits.

Groundwater and soil remediation technologies have since been used to cleanse the former Alger Sullivan property. In 2009, the DEP granted a conditional closure of the site, which asserted that no additional remediation would be necessary as long as engineering and land-use controls were maintained. NorthEscambia.com reported that several companies have expressed interest in the decontaminated property and state officials say a sale is currently under negotiation, although no firm offer has been made.

Effectively resolving environmental liabilities requires a full-cycle approach

Currently, there are more than 340 areas that have been designated as brownfields by local governments in Florida. Nationwide, that figure is believed to be in excess of 450,000. Cleaning up these areas and unlocking their economic potential will require collaborative efforts between landowners, providers of environmental remediation services, and other stakeholders in the public and private sectors.

Organizations that own or are interested in becoming involved with a brownfield site need more than a remediation company to achieve their goals, as these redevelopment projects involve a wide range of responsibilities, from conducting initial assessments and planning to completing cleanup activities and post-project reporting.

Partnering with an environmental consulting firm that takes a full-cycle approach to cleaning up contaminated properties can allow stakeholders to mitigate their liabilities and ensure compliance with pertinent regulations, while keeping their costs as low as possible. In turn, this will allow stakeholders to return their focus to their core business interests in as little time as possible.