The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines a brownfield as “a property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.” The agency estimates that there are some 450,000 brownfields located throughout the U.S. in nearly all 50 states.
In 1995, the EPA put in place an organized Brownfields Land Revitalization Program that assists local governments in cleaning up these designated areas. Clean-up is crucial for a number of reasons. First of all, a remediated brownfield means a safer environment for all who live and work in the area. Secondly, clean-up and reuse of the brownfield area means increased local tax bases, job growth, and a lessening of pressure to build on undeveloped lands designated for open space. The EPA assists in the clean-up by helping communities acquire grants that fund the work necessary to provide a safe and clean area that can once again be put to use.
Because of the widespread use of asbestos during the first three-quarters of the twentieth century, a number of designated brownfields throughout the country are contaminated with the toxic mineral, which was used in literally thousands of products because of its durability and excellent fire-resistant properties. Asbestos may have been left behind by factories, mills, mines, chemical plants, power plants, military bases, and a number of other-jobsites industries. Clearing an area of asbestos can be costly but its removal is important for the health and safety of all concerned.
Notable Brownfields undergoing Clean-Up
Fort Drum, Watertown, NY – A military training base since 1908 and at one time the site of 240 barracks, 84 mess halls, 86 storehouses, 58 warehouses, 27 officers' quarters, 22 headquarters buildings, and 99 recreational buildings as well as guardhouses and a hospital, this location is ridden with asbestos and other-jobsites contaminants, typical of military installations.
Kodak Park, Rochester, NY – Stretching about 1,100 acres, the soil at this park was largely contaminated by asbestos and various chemicals from Kodak-affiliated facilities. The ground water is said to be contaminated with various volatile organic compounds as well.
Mobil Oil Park, Staten Island, NY – Now known as Kinder Morgan Liquid Terminals, soils and groundwater at this location have been impacted by petroleum hydrocarbons and inorganic compounds as well as other-jobsites toxic materials such as asbestos, benzene, and lead. This is often the case with land that once held refineries or “tank farms.”
McGuire Air Force Base, Wrightstown/Burlington, NJ – Containing 3,500 acres in South Jersey’s Pinelands National Reserve area, McGuire Air Force Base – like many military installations – is contaminated with a variety of hazardous materials and compounds including asbestos, nickel, and mercury. McGuire still functions as an active military base.
DuPont Plant, Gibbstown, NJ – Occupying 1,900 acres along the Delaware River, this chemical plant opened in 1880 and produced dynamite, acids, nitrobenzene and other-jobsites organic compounds. Ditches and soil are contaminated with asbestos, nitrobenzene, aniline, diphenylamine, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and the groundwater is contaminated with organic compounds such as nitrobenzene, aniline, benzene, and tetrachloroethylene, according to the EPA.
W.R. Grace Site, Hamilton Twp., NJ – W.R. Grace, best known for its asbestos-tainted vermiculite mine in Libby, Mont. that has caused hundreds of deaths, also contributed to this Superfund site in central New Jersey. Though the EPA has reported substantial progress here, some of the soil at the site continues to be contaminated with asbestos, which was contained in raw vermiculite shipped to the facility from the Zonolite mine in Libby.
Asbestos Dump, Millington, NJ – This 11-acre location in Northern New Jersey was the site of an asbestos products manufacturing plant since 1927 until the late 60s. It was used as a refuse and asbestos disposal area for approximately 40 years. The National Gypsum Company has been identified as the responsible party. Completion of clean up of the area and the removal of the site from the EPA’s priority list is expected to occur by late 2009.
Last modified: December 28, 2010.