Brownfield Newsletter


Revitalizing Communities through the Recycling of Contaminated Properties

Vol. 10-1~Fall 2010

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John B. Carnahan
Brownfield Coordinator

Sonja L. Benson
Brownfield Program Specialist

Deborah L. Williams
Brownfield 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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Other sites of Interest

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DEC Home

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EPA Region 10 Brownfields

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Previous Issues of DEC's Brownfield Bulletin


Welcome

Welcome to the Fall 2010 edition of the DEC Brownfield Bulletin!

Last year we had a busy summer and fall season of brownfield project work. We were fortunate that the weather in September and well into October was warm and snow-free, allowing us to complete more of our field work early in our state fiscal year. With a record 29 new DEC Brownfield Assessment (DBA) requests, we were still preparing scopes of work for a few of the projects late in September. Last November we went to New Orleans for Brownfields 2009, the national brownfields conference, which featured an extensive educational program, mobile workshops, a property transaction forum, a poster session, exhibitors’ hall, and even a film series. We participated in a panel session with Arla Johnson, brownfield program manager for the Bristol Bay Native Association, along with other states and tribes working together to revitalize brownfields.

In February we participated in several brownfield sessions at the Alaska Forum on the Environment, once again co-presenting with EPA and several of Alaska’s tribal response programs. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s July visit to western Alaska was well received; see the article coauthored by Joey Billy of the Kuskokwim River Watershed Council and Mary Goolie of EPA’s Alaska Operations Office.

The first of September found us in Juneau at the Tribal Leaders Summit, hosted this year by an organization that houses one of our newest Alaska Tribal Response Programs, the Central Council of Tlingit Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska. Later in September Deb Williams attended the Western Brownfields Workshop in Missoula, Montana. Her account of the workshop is included in this issue. Last month’s Alaska Tribal Conference on Environmental Management (ATCEM) was well attended, and it was great to see so many of you there. This year’s ATCEM featured a full-day, EPA-sponsored training program on establishing and enhancing a Tribal Response Program. Our project work for the current year has wrapped up, and we are grateful for the good weather that once again helped us get our field work done before winter.

We hope you enjoy this edition of the Brownfield Bulletin, and please take special note of the upcoming events both in Alaska and Outside to make the most of your work in the brownfield arena.

Sonja Benson
Brownfield Program Specialist

In this issue:


EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson Visits Rural Alaska

It felt like a holiday for the Tribal environmental coordinators in the Bethel region. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson visited Bethel on July 27th to meet with Tribal leaders and environmental staff. Administrator Jackson also visited the small rural villages of Chefornak, Kasigluk, and Napakiak during her Alaska tour. The topics of discussion ranged from coastal erosion and clean water to climate change and subsistence culture. It is a rare event for the head of a federal agency to visit rural Alaska, so it was a great opportunity for local residents to meet with her, and for her to hear about their most critical environmental concerns and priorities.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson with Kuskokwim River Watershed Council's Tribal Response Program Coordinator Joey Billy, in Bethel, Alaska, July 27, 2010.

During the question and answer session in Bethel, the concerns of the Tribes in Alaska were addressed to Ms. Jackson. One of these is the fact that the Federally Recognized Tribes in Alaska are not eligible for EPA’s competitive brownfield grants for assessment, cleanup, and job training. (Of all the EPA environmental programs, Brownfields are a relatively new concept for Alaska, although in the lower 48 Brownfields have been recognized since 1977 with the enactment by Congress of the Community Reinvestment Act.)

Before heading to Bethel, Administrator Jackson spent time with the EPA Alaska Operations Office staff in Anchorage. She emphasized her focus on the goals of the agency and explained why they were important to her. The five strategic goals for advancing the agency’s environmental and human-health mission are the following:

  1. Taking action on climate change and improving air quality
  2. Protecting America's waters
  3. Cleaning up communities and advancing sustainable development
  4. Ensuring the safety of chemicals and preventing pollution
  5. Enforcing environmental laws

During Administrator Jackson’s visit in Bethel she met with Joey Billy, the brownfield coordinator for the Kuskokwim River Watershed Council (KRWC) Tribal Response Program (TRP). KRWC is a second-year grantee and one of the 16 current State & Tribal Response Programs in Alaska. Although KRWC's TRP is new to the region, they have already applied for both Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation Brownfields Assessments (DBAs) and Environmental Protection Agency Targeted Brownfield Assessments (TBAs) for the Kuskokwim River Watershed villages, and have begun the planning stages for the reuse and revitalization of particular sites. Neither the DBA nor TBA process moves fast; it is a time consuming process and at times may discourage the applicant, unless the community is fully engaged. Mr. Billy shared with Administrator Jackson the hardship that Alaska TRPs face in trying to get properties to reuse without eligibility for the competitive Brownfields grants. The Alaska TRPs are constantly networking and researching other possible funding sources for the reuse of the Brownfield sites.

During Administrator Jackson’s visit, her greatest concern was about the lack of piped water and sewer, and she was impressed that people were more concerned about erosion, because she takes for granted her running water at home. Her visit brought her much closer to the real problems of rural Alaska, and we appreciate her taking the time to travel to remote parts of the state.

--Contributing author Joey Billy is the brownfield coordinator for the Kuskokwim River Watershed Council. He is based in Bethel and travels up and down the river to document brownfield sites in the 39 KRWC communities.

--Mary Goolie is Alaska’s EPA brownfield project manager. She is based in Anchorage at EPA’s Alaska Operations Office.


Community Gardens Could be the Right Redevelopment Option for Rural Alaska Brownfields

Have you looked at the USDA funding for community gardens? One community that requested a DEC Brownfield Assessment (DBA) has a great redevelopment idea for old reclaimed tank farm pads: community gardens and greenhouses. Can you imagine what an asset it would be for rural Alaskan communities to grow their own produce? With the long daylight of Alaskan summers, rural Alaska could have fresh produce all summer, and have food put up for winter in root cellars and by freezing and canning. Using above-ground cold frames and greenhouses can extend the growing season and provide salad greens in the spring and tomatoes well into the fall. A lot of money could be saved on shipping produce in and the locally grown food would be much tastier, healthier, higher-quality fresh greens and vegetables.

Would your community be interested? Once your brownfield has been assessed and managed appropriately for a new life as a community garden, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has grants for establishing new community food projects. This year’s deadline for the community food project grant application is November 17, but we recommend starting now on plans for a proposal next year, to allow plenty of time to gather local support and engage your community. For more information visit this link: http://www.nifa.usda.gov/fo/communityfoodprojects.cfm.

EPA has recently set up a website for information on revitalization of brownfields as community gardens. This new website provides information for people pursuing agriculture projects as a part of brownfield redevelopment and reuse. You can visit it here: http://www.epa.gov/brownfields/urbanag/index.html.

Even beyond brownfields, schools around the country, including in Fairbanks, have begun to develop gardens that are run by the students. One great resource for developing community gardens at schools is Calypso Farm and Ecology Center, located in Ester, Alaska, about six miles from Fairbanks. Their Manual for Garden Committees was developed for the Schoolyard Garden Initiative, and includes information on the process, from asking for donations to planning a garden. Much of the information in the manual applies to setting up a community garden in Fairbanks, but there is plenty of information that you might find helpful.

In Fairbanks, Calypso has established several community gardens at local schools, through its EATing program (EATing stands for Engaging Alaskan Teens in Gardening), which employees teenagers to maintain the gardens and operate a small Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) program during the summer months. Operating the gardens as student-run CSAs/Farm Stands ensures that the gardens are maintained during the summer and contributes significantly to the financial sustainability of the EATinG program. In 2009, more than 100 students were employed as student gardeners at five school community gardens. For more information on this program visit http://www.calypsofarm.org/eating.htm.

For an example of a community garden from a brownfield success story, check out the Urban Oaks Organic Farm. For more information and examples of community gardens established at brownfield sites, as well as information on funding opportunities, EPA’s Clu-In website has an archived presentation with lots of ideas, case studies, and resources. You can download it here. Happy gardening!

Deborah Williams
Brownfield Program Specialist

Sonja Benson
Brownfield Program Specialist


DEC Brownfield Assessments Completed in Eighteen Communities in 2009, Seven Underway in 2010

For the past six years, DEC's Reuse and Redevelopment (R&R or Brownfield) Program has solicited requests for DEC Brownfield Assessments (DBAs). DBAs are funded in part through DEC's State and Tribal Response Program grant, as well as through state Capital Improvement Project (CIP) money. Since 2004, DEC has conducted nearly 70 DBAs in more than 50 cities and villages throughout the state.

In 2009, the R&R Program received 29 DBA requests, including 11 for state-owned or state-interest properties and 18 for non-state sites. Requests for assessment services for old or blighted property owned or managed by the state may come to us from either the agency in charge of the site or from a community interested in seeing that particular state-owned site cleaned up and reused. Three of the proposed non-state projects were ineligible because of various factors: one site is an active tank farm and another was reportedly lost to erosion, unfortunately, before the assessment request could be completed. Several of the DBA requests were specific to old Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) schools and the land on which they sit. Many old school sites in Alaska villages sit vacant, are no longer in use by the school districts, and are falling into serious disrepair. Without timely interim action, the buildings eventually have no reuse value, and thus the funds that could have gone toward revitalizing the structures must now go to demolition.

In 2010 the R&R Program received a total of only eight DBA requests. The lower number of requests was due primarily to a new process for receiving and prioritizing DBA requests from other state agencies. In addition, several projects begun in 2009 were carried over into 2010 for continuing assessment.

As in previous years, many requests came in from small villages seeking environmental evaluation of old fuel-storage tank farms, burned or abandoned schools, old power houses or generator buildings, and old dumpsites. State agency projects also included old school sites, along with old highway maintenance sites and airports, and, for the first time last year, three defunct shooting ranges. All DBAs at state-owned sites have been funded through the state CIP budget allocated specifically for state-property assessments and cleanups.

What DEC looks for in a DBA request: The intent of a DBA is to facilitate the redevelopment or reuse of a property by evaluating the environmental condition or concern that compromises the viability of the site. The desired result is the protection and preservation of resources that may be adversely affected by the subject brownfield. Reuse is a critical component of a successful DBA request. The stronger the reuse plan, the higher the ranking within our review and prioritization process (this is similar to the manner in which the EPA prioritizes projects for grants under their programs).

Oftentimes the properties in question have been a concern to the community for many years, sometimes decades. When considering a request for brownfield assistance, start first by thinking of what you'd like to see in place of the problem site, then work back to what it would take to get there. While it is easy to see a blighted property and realize that something needs to be done, the emphasis behind prioritizing one brownfield over another is often based on the vision for that site, the positive impact that it could have on the community, and the likelihood of successful follow-through.

Over the years, DBA activities have ranged from simple environmental audits or Phase I environmental site assessments to full site characterizations, and even some limited cleanups. We were fortunate this year to be able to complete our current projects during the 2010 summer-fall field season. Our current year’s DBA work includes two former BIA schools, in Kasigluk and Eek; another, non-BIA former school in Larsen Bay; three different petroleum sites in Selawik, including a former AVEC site; an abandoned, eroding dumpsite in Noatak; a former fire station in Thorne Bay; and an old city shop and fuel storage area in Elim. We look forward to providing details on their successful revitalization in the future!

If you’d like more information on our DBA project work, past or present, please give us a call or send us an email through the links at the bottom of this story.

John Carnahan
DEC Brownfield Coordinator

Sonja Benson
Brownfield Program Specialist


Western Brownfields Workshop

In September I attended the inspiring and informational Western Brownfields Workshop for the first time; the workshop was held this year in Missoula, Montana. I am only finishing up my second year with DEC’s Reuse and Redevelopment (R&R or Brownfield) Program, but have worked as an environmental regulator for 18 years before taking this position. The R&R Program is a great program to work for because you get to work with people who want to clean up sites to see them reused. I see my job as helping people achieve that goal by providing technical assistance on the cleanup process (including contracting assessments); researching potential funding sources for cleanup or revitalization; and help with reengaging other potential responsible parties for assisting in cleanup at a site.

Bear sculpture at the University of Montana. Photo by Holland Gauthier.

My primary focus for the workshop was to attend the sessions on working with Tribes and small communities and learning about available funding for cleanup and revitalization. Working for the Department of Environmental Conservation within the Contaminated Sites Program, it is difficult to find funding for cleanup at sites that are not State-owned or for abatement of hazardous building materials. Many grants and loans are available for this type of work; however, learning about those grants and who can apply for them can be a full-time job. The workshop offered me opportunities to network with grant proposal writers from other regions where their sole responsibilities are to obtain grants for cleanup and revitalization. I was also able to talk with people who’ve had success in reengaging the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) for cleanup money at old BIA sites.

I especially liked the case study sessions. As everyone knows, it takes a long time to move a blighted contaminated site to a property that is back in full productive use. The case studies were inspiring and showed that perseverance pays off. You must have a dedicated community on your team. During the workshop I was able to explore with a land manager from Alaska the possibilities for a community garden project at a contaminated site in Anchorage. The development of community gardens in both urban and rural areas of Alaska is a great idea. Not only would community gardens provide nutritious food for communities, they would also provide educational opportunities to the youth in villages and be a great reuse for a contaminated site.

Opportunities for networking are essential for success in the Brownfield Program. The Western Brownfields Workshop provided an environment where it was comfortable to make those contacts, while including a broad diversity of people with different expertise.

Deborah Williams
Brownfield Program Specialist


Community Development Block Grants - Application Period Now Open

Nearly a month remains before the deadline for Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) applications. Alaska’s Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development, Division of Community and Regional Affairs, administers the CDBG program. The program’s goals are to provide financial resources to Alaskan communities for public facilities and for planning projects that improve the health and safety of local residents and reduce the costs of essential community services. The program may also fund “special economic development” activities that lead to the creation of jobs for low- and moderate-income persons.

CDBG competitive grants are single-purpose project grants; the maximum grant award in one year is $850,000 per community. The CDBG program has three basic funding categories: community development, planning, and special economic development.

These grants are an excellent opportunity for communities to achieve their reuse and redevelopment goals and are very compatible with brownfield projects. Think about what you would like to see in place of that old burned down school building or abandoned store or gas station. If the site you have in mind for a project has the potential for environmental hindrances, applying to DEC for a DEC Brownfield Assessment (DBA) or to EPA for a Targeted Brownfield Assessment (TBA) might help in your CDBG application. It is beneficial to complete the environmental assessment before you apply for a CDBG because a DBA or TBA can help to clarify environmental conditions associated with a property destined to be the site of a new community hall, fire station, clinic, or water treatment facility.

In McGrath, a CDBG will help fund a new Tribal hall on a site that received a DBA in 2008. See the DBA story in our last newsletter. In Kobuk, a DBA clarified environmental conditions at a former fuel storage area planned as the site for a new, CDBG-funded emergency backup generator.

CDBG programs are funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Any Alaskan municipal government (except Anchorage) is eligible to apply for the grants. Non-profits and Tribes may apply as co-applicants for these pass-through funds. In a typical year, applications are distributed to municipalities in late fall, and awards are made the following spring. Federal regulations require that at least 51 per cent of the persons who benefit from a funded project must be low- and moderate-income persons as defined by HUD.

If you have questions or would like more information, please call Janet Davis at (907) 451-2746. Click here to go to the DCCED web page for more information and to download the application forms. The deadline for applications is Friday, December 3, at 4:30 p.m. Applications must be received as hard copies in the Fairbanks office by that time.

Sonja Benson
Brownfield Program Specialist

Brownfield Calendar

Deadline for brownfields job training grants: January 14, 2011

Through this program, now entitled Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training, EPA provides funds to eligible entities, including non-profit organizations, to deliver environmental workforce development and job training programs focused on hazardous and solid waste management, assessment, and cleanup associated activities. The guidelines posted are still in draft form, the final guidelines are expected soon, and are expected to remain largely unchanged. For more information, visit http://www.epa.gov/brownfields/applicat.htm.

Alaska Forum on the Environment: Anchorage

We hope you’ll join us for the biggest Alaska environmental conference of the year. Visit http://www.akforum.com/ for more information.

When: February 7-11, 2011
Where: Dena'ina Convention Center, Anchorage

Brownfields 2011: Philadelphia

Save the date for the biggest brownfield event in the country. Next year's national brownfield meeting, Brownfields 2011, will be held in Philadelphia. Registration is happening now! Visit http://www.brownfields2011.org/en/home and learn more about this exciting brownfield event. More news will follow through our list serve and website once the agenda and educational program are made available.

When: April 3-5, 2011
Where: Pennsylvania Convention Center, Philadelphia

Brownfields 2011

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This DEC Brownfield Bulletin is meant as a simple means to disseminate news across the state to those interested in brownfield developments. Please forward this to anyone you believe would be interested. If you have information or stories that you would like to submit, please send them to us and we will incorporate them on your behalf. If you would like to have your name removed from this distribution, simply email us and it will be done!