Environmental assessments are a major part of what we do at Tioga. We assess and conduct sampling at all types of properties across the Mid-South, including brownfields. Learn more about what the process entails and why it’s important.
What’s a brownfield?
According to the EPA, a brownfield is a property where redevelopment is hampered due to perceived or real contamination by hazardous materials. Generally, most Brownfields are in municipal areas which were previously used for industrial activities. The EPA estimates there are more than 450,000 brownfields in the nation. The agency encourages development on these properties instead of constructing on undeveloped land that could harm the environment and disturb ecosystems. Occupying brownfields is more sustainable and even eliminates blight in areas with large quantities of unoccupied buildings. However, due to the potential for litigation on these properties stemming from exposure to hazardous substances, redevelopment of these properties is often viewed with trepidation. Rest assured, through proper assessment, remediation and mitigation, safe redevelopment of these properties in a safe way is possible.
Tioga assesses brownfields for a range of clients, such as developers, real estate investors and corporations, who are looking to purchase and undergo construction on brownfields. Such efforts have included facility expansions, redevelopments and adaptive reuse projects. Our team analyzes brownfields for hazardous materials first with a Phase I environmental site assessment. Depending on our findings, we could move further and conduct a Phase II ESA, and if onsite conditions warrant it and liability protection is desired, we move on to remediation or mitigation of the property.
What can ESAs find in a brownfield?
Depending on the history of the property and its surrounding location, we can often expect what contaminants we will find on a brownfield. A property that once functioned as a gas station or fire station is likely to still have underground storage tanks to hold large bulks of petroleum. If a manufacturing facility once stood on a plot of land, we might expect to find traces of hazardous chemicals in the soil and groundwater, which will then need remediation. However, you have to learn to expect the unexpected. Historical records are sometimes hard to come by and almost always incomplete.
In our several years of conducting environmental assessments, some of the more memorable discoveries we have made include almost 4,000 tons of illegally dumped potato chips and hundreds of antique bottles from a historical dump dating from the 1920s. A more common occurrence is the discovery of historical underground storage tanks from gas stations with no records and pits where people historically burned trash.
One thing is sure when assessing old properties: you never know what you are going to find. One of the most fascinating aspects of assessing and redeveloping brownfields is the unexpected journey through the history of an area that comes with digging into the previous uses of a facility in addition to helping an underutilized area become productive again.
We previously discussed the process of undergoing a Phase I ESA and why it’s important for your project and at times required. You can also go back for a refresher course to learn what assessment results would then require you to order a Phase II ESA. And, in case you think it’s OK to skip phases, here’s why we recommend otherwise.
If you’re looking to purchase a property or need a professional environmental assessment, contact our team today.