What is a Brownfield Site and Brownfields?

What is a Brownfield Site?

An article about the Brownfields Act by Azad A. Kaligi, PG.

The Brownfields Revitalization and Environmental Restoration Act of 2001 (also known as the Brownfields Act) defines a Brownfield Site as “real property, the expansion, redevelopment or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of hazardous substance, pollutant, or contamination.”

In other words, a Brownfield Site is land that might be contaminated, and the purpose of the Brownfields legislation is to encourage remediation, if needed, so that the site can be redeveloped.

CERCLA & Brownfields Sites

A Brownfield Site is Land that Might be Contaminated, and the Brownfields Legislation Encourages Remediation.

© Paige Foster

The Brownfields Act amends the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) of 1980. The redevelopment process starts with a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment and the due diligence process.   The purpose of environmental due diligence s to determine the extent of contamination and possible legal and financial risks.

Brownfields Redevelopment & Environmental Due Diligence 

If a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment concludes that there are no Recognized Environmental Concerns related to contamination or human health risks, the property can undergo redevelopment.  Although, if recognized environmental concerns (REC) are reported, a Phase II Environmental Site Assessment will be required, which entails field sampling, laboratory analysis, and geological/engineering based conclusions.

 Cleanup of Brownfields Sites

Cleaning up a Brownfield Site is considered Phase III Environmental Remediation, or simply “remediation.”  Often times with remediation, additional site assessments and groundwater monitoring will be conducted.  Modernly, environmental remediation efforts are comprised of soil vapor extraction, groundwater pump & treat, or in-situ chemical/microbial injection. However, in some cases remediation by soil excavation (also known as contamination source removal) is most practical.

For information about the environmental due diligence process for Brownfields Sites, check out Geo Forward’s Phase I ESA and Phase II ESA pages, or call Geo Forward, Inc. at (888) 930-6887 to speak with a licensed professional geologist or engineer.


U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2005, Brownfields Cleanup and Redevelopment: http://www.epa.gov/enforcement/brownfields-and-land-revitalization-cleanup-enforcement.

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