Brownfields must be properly identified, remediated and prevented

March 27, 2014

Though it is not always easy to clean up brownfield sites, it is important to identify them as soon as possible. Defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as property that is difficult to develop due to the presence of a hazardous substance, brownfields pose a threat to public health and stymie economic growth.

Here are some examples of how local communities across the country are identifying and dealing with their contaminated land.

Thirteen contaminated sites may be assessed in Florida

Residents of Brooksville, Florida have identified a number of sites within their city that may be contaminated and should undergo remediation before new development takes place. Though as many as 90 are being considered—ranging from former gas stations to fruit packing plants and auto repair shops—a recent article in Hernando Today reports that 13 preliminary sites are being focused on.

This assessment was funded by a $400,000 EPA grant. The grant runs out on Sept. 30, 2015, at which point the work must be completed.

Alabama city launches brownfields program

In Prichard, Alabama, the site of a former railroad maintenance building that was operational during the 1800s may still contain harmful and possibly cancer-causing chemicals, according to a report by local affiliate FOX10TV. 

The city has taken advantage of a $400,000 federal grant to fund a study of the area. So far, Mayor Troy Ephriam told the news source that, "Mostly just PCBs that have been identified from use of the textile and the coal mining plants that were actually used during the old railroad train station days," have been found.

PCBs are believed by scientists to cause cancer.

"When you rank these particular contaminants, I wouldn't consider these to be the highest level of threat, but, they are, in fact, areas of contamination, and areas on our parcels that the state agencies and the federal agencies say have to be removed," Ephraim added.

Given what has already been found, the city intends to apply for another grant to fund the cleanup.

Louisville church faces lawsuit over oil exploration

While it is important to identify brownfield sites for cleanup, it is equally important to maintain compliance with environmental regulations and avoid creating new contaminated sites. This is where a church in Louisville, Kentucky could have benefited from bringing in a consultant.

According to a report by local affiliate WDRB, the church, which was featured on an episode of the Discovery channel show "Backyard Oil," had actually drilled two wells without filing the proper documentation and receiving a permit for oil exploration.

The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet is in the process of filing a lawsuit against the church for this activity and has requested that the church stop drilling.

Obviously, an oil well gone wrong could have a deleterious effect on the surrounding area, which is why these things need to be done properly. But whether stakeholders are digging for energy sources or cleaning contaminated sites, it is important to work with environmental consultants that can help them navigate the complex requirements and avoid future liability.