Brownfield Newsletter

Focusing on Redevelopment and Reuse of Contaminated Properties


Volume 06-1 April 17, 2006 In this issue:

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John B. Carnahan
Brownfield Coordinator

Sonja Benson
Environmental Program Specialist

Contaminated Sites Program
Division of Spill Prevention and Response
610 University Avenue
Fairbanks, Alaska 99709
Phone: (907) 451-2166
Facsimile: (907) 451-2155

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DEC Brownfield Webpage
Contaminated Sites Webpage

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Welcome to the DEC Brownfield Bulletin!

DEC would like to invite you to be a part of brownfield developments across the state. We are actively working with many communities to identify their concerns about contaminated properties, and we are available to assist you in solving your brownfield problems.

Brownfields are properties whose reuse, redevelopment, or expansion is hindered by real or perceived environmental contamination. Brownfields are everywhere and in every community. They are large and small, vacant or developed, abandoned or occupied. Opening your eyes enough to see them is the first step-understanding what you can do with them is often the real challenge. The brownfield "vision" focuses on sustainable redevelopment, which takes many forms: parks and green space, public spaces, new businesses, homes, and more. DEC's brownfield assistance can help you make those decisions.

Brownfield success begins close to home with a clear vision for the future. What is your goal in redeveloping a piece of property? Are you concerned that the property poses a risk to the public? Is the property in an important location to you or your community? Do you think its untapped potential is just waiting to be discovered? We are interested in brownfield properties for many reasons, but it often comes down to recycling what we already have, while at the same time eliminating an eyesore.

Brownfield success requires strong community and local government support. Nearly all real estate development is done at the local level. The more brownfield assistance is available to local governments, and the more a project is aligned with community interest, the more chance there is for success. DEC reaches out to both urban and rural communities to provide its support. Remember, success cannot happen without your input!

With financial and programmatic assistance for brownfield projects, we all gain on several levels: contamination is addressed, abandoned lots are beautified, property is recycled, land values increase, infrastructure is reused, and public monies are saved. What more do we need to say? The benefits are indeed substantial!

John Carnahan

Brownfield Coordinator

John.Carnahan@alaska.gov


Propose a Brownfield Site

We all think we know a brownfield when we see one: the vacant property that had a forgotten business on it 20 years ago; the foreclosed gas station that has seen better days; the abandoned tank farm with empty tanks still standing; former barracks or school buildings sitting vacant in your community for years.

Although you may be aware of a particular brownfield, it is likely that DEC's Brownfield Program is not. Alaska is a big state and we rely on the public to keep us informed about concerns in their communities. Identifying brownfield properties can be the most important step toward real action.

If you are interested in seeing something done about a specific property, it is possible that others may share your interest in turning around a brownfield in your community.

How can we help? We can help you understand the extent of the environmental condition, help determine what action may be appropriate, help identify the owner, and guide you through the regulatory process. We can also help you seek funding to assess and clean up an eligible site. Identifying a brownfield is only the first step, but it is an important one. Putting together the whole brownfield project is where the real work begins; it's best to venture down that road with as much support as you can get!

On DEC's website  we have a form designed for you to propose a brownfield site to us. The form is self-explanatory and we invite you to visit our site and give us comments.

Propose a Brownfield Site Form:

http://www.dec.state.ak.us/spar/csp/brownfields.htm#propose

Contact Sonja Benson for more information at: Sonja.Benson@alaska.gov


Start Planning Your Request Early!

2006 Funding for DEC Brownfield Assessments

DEC has funding each year to conduct about a half-dozen DEC Brownfield Assessments (DBAs). These assessments are the first step toward understanding what environmental conditions may exist at a site. To date, DEC has conducted a diverse set of DBAs, ranging from Phase 1 environmental site assessments to a full-scale release investigation. In 2005, we received 12 requests for DBAs; the previous year, we only received 2. We anticipate that more communities will take advantage of this program and seek DBAs this year. Some DBA projects that are completed or underway include:

  • Site assessment at an abandoned and foreclosed gas station;    
  • Multiple Phase I environmental site assessments for the Municipality of Anchorage;
  • Environmental assessment for a former recycling yard;
  • Assessment and sampling at a former historic gold mine operation;
  • Sampling at a historic seal harvesting facility;
  • Review and assessment of former FAA facilities and property slated for major redevelopment in Kenai; and
  • Phase I/II assessment of a former construction yard.

All Phase I environmental site assessments are conducted in accordance with the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) Standard E1527-05, which meets the "All Appropriate Inquiries" rule recently established by EPA. These assessments are a necessary component of due diligence before the transfer of a commercial property, and required when federal funding is used. Site-specific sampling is included if it meets the assessment objectives and funding permits; however, sampling costs can be significant, and our goal is to spread the funding to as many projects as possible.

Please visit our web page and review the DBA Fact Sheet, which describes the intent of the program. You can also download the simple DBA Request Form from the website-we are available to help you complete this form. If you have any questions, please contact us at your convenience!

John Carnahan, Brownfield Coordinator: John.Carnahan@alaska.gov

Sonja Benson: Sonja.Benson@alaska.gov


Alaska State & Tribal Response Program Grants Seek to Identify and Manage Regional Brownfield Issues

When people imagine a brownfield grant, their first thought is often the type of funding that is aimed at cleaning up an old industrial site or contaminated abandoned lot, or removing those old tanks that have been hiding beneath the ground in front of that dilapidated building for years. However, brownfield funding is also available for regional inventories of sites, job training, assessments, and redevelopment planning.

You may not know that another grant program available is specific to building internal capacity at the state or tribal level. This grant is called the State and Tribal Response Program (STRP) grant, and is offered by EPA for both states and tribes seeking to develop their capacity to inventory, assess, and manage the information needed for the redevelopment of brownfield sites. DEC receives an annual STRP grant from  EPA, to help build its contaminated sites and brownfield programs. While helping in part to fund personnel, about 25 percent of this grant funds up to six DEC Brownfield Assessments across the state (see "Start Planning Your Request Early! 2006 Funding for DEC Brownfield Assessments," in this newsletter).

DEC is not the only recipient of this type of grant. Several tribal organizations in Alaska have obtained STRP grants to help build their own internal program capacity to identify, document, and manage contaminated lands. Activities funded under these grants include accurately locating sites, developing mapping capabilities, conducting assessments, establishing new outreach programs, and creating inventories of brownfield sites within their communities or regions. DEC considers these programs a major complement to its brownfield program, primarily because they have staff that live and work in the rural villages where they can get the best and most accurate information about their environmental and brownfield concerns. The entire premise of brownfield redevelopment is based on providing incentives that allow local control and local action, empowering communities to take charge and make things happen.

This year, the Leisnoi Village (Woody Island Tribe), Anvik Tribal Council, Native Council of Port Heiden, and the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council received STRP grants. Leisnoi Village (2004), Metlakatla (2003-2004) and Selewik (2003) have received previous funding of this nature.

DEC is actively working with these organizations and is able to provide the support necessary to help fulfill their program objectives. We believe that our program objectives are aligned, and that strength lies in coordinated efforts that reach across the state.

For more information about developing a program and requesting funding, or for information about a program that might be in your region, please contact DEC or Brooks Stanfield with EPA.

State & Tribal Response Program Grant Managers in Alaska:

Ellen Simeonoff - Leisnoi Village: ellen@woodyisland.com
Malinda Chase - YRITWC: mchase@yritwc.com
Mike Grundberg - Anvik Tribal Council: m.grundberg@anviktribal.net
Scott Anderson - Native Council of Port Heiden: pth@starband.net
John Carnahan - Brownfield Coordinator: John.Carnahan@alaska.gov
Brooks Stanfield - EPA Grant Manager: Stanfield.Brooks@epamail.epa.gov
Susan Morales - EPA Grant Manager: morales.susan@epa.gov


Developing a Brownfield Inventory in the Yukon River Watershed

By Malinda Chase, Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council

The term brownfield is increasingly being heard, explained and untangled at the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council (YRITWC). Last August YRITWC received an EPA State and Tribal Response Program Grant to establish a Brownfield Tribal Response Program. The program is one of five brownfield programs in Alaska. The other four include Anvik, Leisnoi, and Port Heiden tribal governments, and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). The YRITWC program lays the initial path for identification, assessment, cleanup and reuse of certain contaminated areas in the Yukon River Watershed, and responds to a directive given by founding YRITWC leaders.

Buildings or lands perceived to be contaminated or that have an environmental concern can pose a problem to community land use and development. "Environmental conditions (with a building or land) often lead to blight in a community, which can in turn lead to decreased property values (and use) in the community," says John Carnahan, the Brownfield Coordinator for DEC. "Brownfield assistance can often help communities deal with this type of blight." Blight is considered anything - in this case either real or perceived contamination - that hinders the use of a property or structure. Communities play an important role in determining the most beneficial use for a property or structure.

During this first year of YRITWC's program, approximately 20 watershed communities will be inventoried for potential environmental conditions, previously known contaminated sites and potential brownfields. This inventory will include collecting information describing details about potential contamination, causes and concerns, possible threats to the community, habitat and wildlife, and what sites have good reuse potential upon clean-up.

Collecting this information is labor intensive. It involves working jointly with community environmental staff and leadership to map and photograph potential sites, talking with individuals knowledgeable about the sites, and gathering community information. To encourage public awareness and participation about brownfields, community outreach will be woven throughout the inventory effort, and a public record of potentially contaminated sites in the Yukon River Watershed will be available on the YRITWC website.

The role of the YRITWC Brownfield Tribal Response Program is to assist communities in identifying and gathering contamination and redevelopment information on specific sites. Eventually two of the identified potentially contaminated sites that meet the brownfield criteria for reuse will receive further site assessment, which is the next step in moving toward cleanup and reuse.

If you are in a Yukon River Watershed community and are interested in identifying and learning more about brownfields, which can be regarded as a concern about environmental health and community land use planning, then contact your local tribal leadership or environmental program. In turn, your tribal leadership can contact and work with the YRITWC Brownfield Tribal Response Program to identify and, perhaps in the future, reuse places in your community.

Malinda Chase is the YRITWC Brownfield Program Manager and is collaborating with the DEC Brownfield Team on Alaska brownfield initiatives.

Malinda Chase - Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council: mchase@yritwc.com


Workshops and Seminars - Recent Law Seminar International Focuses on Brownfield Redevelopment in Alaska

In the past year, Alaska has seen its share of brownfield workshops and seminars increase substantially. The past two Alaska Forums on the Environment have had brownfield-specific sessions; both of this year's sessions were well attended. Next year we hope to provide more information at a booth, and possibly focus sessions on specific brownfield topics.

DEC and the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) brought several nationally renowned brownfield experts to Anchorage to discuss redevelopment opportunities for Alaska brownfields. Some of the speakers included Charlie Bartsch, senior policy analyst with the Northeast Midwest Institute, Kelly Novak, research manager with NADO, and Patricia Overmeyer with EPA. The full-day workshop had more than 50 attendees from across the state, representing local government, borough, tribal, state, and rural community interests, with a few consultants and developers.

In March, Law Seminars International held its second brownfield workshop titled "Brownfield Redevelopment in Alaska." Twenty-seven attendees registered for this event, and the audience was a mix similar to the NADO workshop, including developers and consultants. DEC is currently considering another Alaska-specific session in the fall 2006. If you have specific interests you would like to see covered in a future workshop, please forward your request to John Carnahan or Sonja Benson.


Closing Thoughts

Many Alaskans who have an interest in economic development have told me that the time is now for the state to take steps to better help Alaskans with brownfield redevelopment. Without some form of assistance to investigate and sort out viable brownfield projects, people may be less interested in making the initial effort to seek those projects out, where the risk is generally perceived to outweigh the future benefits. Sometimes all it takes is a little push or some new information to change the way a brownfield is viewed.

When Charlie Bartsch (often referred to as the "father of brownfields") left after the workshop in Anchorage last fall, he told me that he would like to return to facilitate a follow-up focus session on how the state and local governments can work together to determine what is in the best interests of Alaska in terms of brownfield incentive programs. If you are interested in seeing a session like this, and are interested in being a part of it, please let me know!

John Carnahan, Brownfield Coordinator: John.Carnahan@alaska.gov


 

This 'DEC Brownfields Bulletin' is meant as a simple means for brownfield-related issues to be disseminated across the state to those interested in brownfield developments. Please feel free to forward this to anyone you believe would be interested.

If you have issues or stories that you would like to submit, please send them to me and I will incorporate them on your behalf. If you would like to have your name removed from this distribution, simply email me and it will be done!