Brownfield Newsletter

Revitalizing Communities through the Recycling of Contaminated Properties

Vol. 08-1~Summer 2008



John B. Carnahan
Brownfield Coordinator

Sonja L. Benson
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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Previous Issues of DEC's Brownfield Bulletin

Welcome to the Summer edition of the DEC Brownfield Bulletin!

The first half of 2008 has been busy for DEC's Brownfield Program as interest grows around the state. In February, our brownfield sessions at the Alaska Forum on the Environment drew quite a crowd. Thanks for joining us -- we hope to see you there next year. In April we met with other State and Tribal Response Program grantees within EPA Region 10, representing ten tribes and tribal consortia, and the states of Alaska, Washington, Idaho, and Oregon. We also presented a workshop on brownfields in Bethel, co-sponsored by the Association of Village Council Presidents (AVCP). We're grateful to AVCP for their strong support of environmental education and improvements in their region. In May we attended Brownfields 2008 in Detroit, an incredible opportunity to learn about brownfields and economic revitalization all over the United States and the rest of the world. We are now preparing the requests for proposals for our term contractors to conduct the current year's brownfield assessments and hope to have most of those projects started within the next several weeks.

We always welcome your phone calls and emails and look forward to working with you to revitalize your communities through brownfield reuse and redevelopment. So, please call us with your questions, requests for information, or to discuss a potential brownfield. We especially enjoy hearing from you about your successes following brownfield project work, so keep in touch! And, of course, enjoy the beautiful Alaskan summer.

Sonja Benson
Brownfield Program Specialist

In this issue:

Five New STRP Grants Awarded to Alaska

This article is a modified version of one that appeared in the June issue of Building on Brownfields, the EPA Region 10 brownfield newsletter. Click here to subscribe to it.

EPA recently awarded $50 million in State and Tribal Response Program (STRP) grants to states, tribes and tribal consortia across the nation. Among the new grant winners are five tribes and tribal consortia in Alaska, which also has six continuing grants.

The organizations that have already been awarded STRP grants in Alaska are:

  • Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation
  • Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council
  • Port Heiden Native Council
  • Leisnoi Village--Woody Island Tribal Council (Kodiak)
  • Native Village of Tununak--Nelson Island Consortium
  • Anvik Tribal Council
  • Metlakatla Indian Community

The five new ones this year, most of which will be starting October 1 (the beginning of the federal fiscal year) are:

  • Bristol Bay Native Association
  • Organized Village of Kasaan
  • Maniilaq Association
  • Middle Kuskokwim Consortium
  • Yakutat Tlingit Tribe

DEC looks forward to working with these STRP grantees, and encourages future potential applicants to start now to frame their requests for the next grant cycle, which is expected to be announced in the late fall.

One of our objectives in the next year will be to help communities understand how to successfully apply for this funding in a manner that maximizes results and minimizes paperwork.

We strongly encourage tribes to consider working together with their neighbors to establish sub-regional consortia when seeking STRP funding. STRP grants are available to individual states, tribes, and tribal consortia as capacity-building grants to help establish brownfield programs. More Alaska communities will be able to reap the benefits of these grants when working together to identify sites, educate their residents, review their reuse and redevelopment goals, and provide training through this unique funding opportunity.

A well-designed regional brownfield grant can complement tribal environmental programs and assist communities otherwise unable to apply for and manage this funding. Brownfield funding allows communities to focus on specific revitalization efforts, whereas the EPA Indian General Assistance Program (IGAP) grant does not. IGAP provides a strong foundation for environmental improvements and increased awareness in more than 150 Alaskan villages. With a strong IGAP program in place, and supplementary brownfield services and training through regional brownfield programs, tribes will be better situated to independently manage spill prevention and environmental assessment, cleanup, and redevelopment projects.

DEC would like to see a strong tribally led program that can coordinate community needs across Alaska. We encourage tribes to capitalize on existing consortia or other regional relationships to develop an application encompassing multiple communities.

As an example, the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council (YRITWC), in its third year of STRP funding, has used its grant to survey environmental conditions in 37 watershed communities; YRITWC has identified and mapped more than 230 potential brownfield sites. Training is also a focus of the YRITWC grant, and they have brought together representatives from more than 30 villages, in three separate training workshops, to discuss the brownfield program, how to identify and document sites, and how to work together on establishing a brownfield inventory. YRITWC ( has used their brownfield funding to complement the watershed communities' IGAP grants, extending services to areas that otherwise may not have brownfield funding.

Please contact Sonja Benson ( or John Carnahan ( or call 451-2156, to discuss your organization’s interest in applying for the next cycle of STRP funding.

John Carnahan
DEC Brownfield Coordinator
Sonja Benson
Brownfield Program Specialist

For more information about the STRP grant, please visit EPA's Brownfield website:

DEC Brownfield Assessments Starting Up

Each year DEC obtains limited federal and state funding to conduct brownfield assessments. In the spirit of EPA’s Targeted Brownfield Assessments, DEC established its DEC Brownfield Assessment (DBA) program in 2004. Since then, DEC has conducted 30 assessments in 21 cities and villages throughout the state.

DEC has finished its review of 22 requests for DBAs for the 2008 field season. Fifteen came from small villages seeking evaluation of environmental conditions at old tank farms, burned and flooded sites, abandoned schools, power houses, and former dumps. An additional seven requests came from state agencies for state-owned properties such as idle rural airport lease lots. Some overlap exists between these requests, as some of them came from villages for assessment of state-owned sites in anticipation of  property transfers to village communities. All state-owned site projects are completed with state monies allocated specifically for state-property assessments and cleanups.

Excavation work during a DEC brownfield project in Delta Junction (photo courtesy OASIS Environmental).
Excavation work during a DEC brownfield project in Delta Junction (photo courtesy OASIS Environmental).

The intent of a DBA is to further the redevelopment or reuse of a property or structure, or to protect and preserve resources affected by the subject brownfield. Oftentimes the properties in question have been a concern to the community for many years, sometimes decades. Rural villages in particular have difficulty paying for this type of project, making the DBA such an important tool. Activities over the years have ranged from simple environmental audits or Phase I environmental site assessments to full site characterizations, and even some limited cleanups.

We plan to initiate the DBA projects during the 2008 summer field season, with reporting completed by the beginning of the new year. Actual cleanups will again be limited this season owing to anticipated funding shortfalls. The goal of DEC's Brownfield Program is to advance as many projects as possible each season. We are continually researching additional state funding opportunities and hope to have more projects better situated should that funding become available. DEC hopes to announce the final list of funded projects in late July or early August 2008. Once state and federal approval has been obtained for the proposed work, we'll post the results on our website.

Sonja Benson
Brownfield Program Specialist

Brownfield Partnerships are the Key to Success in Mountain View

One of the first DEC Brownfield Assessments was a large-scale Phase I assessment of the Mountain View neighborhood in northeast Anchorage. Mountain View is a major redevelopment project underway by the Municipality of Anchorage, which is focusing on revitalizing this area as an Arts and Cultural District. The area-wide assessment led to site-specific assessments of several properties in Mountain View.

Brewster's Department Store owned a property on Mountain View Drive since 1981, using it for storage near their store. Brewster’s used the site for many years before the Anchorage Community Land Trust (ACLT) bought the property in February 2005 and leased it to an arts studio. ACLT wanted to acquire the site because of its strategic location relative to the development plans for the Mountain View neighborhood, but they purchased it without full knowledge of the potential environmental conditions—an action not recommended in this day and age. DEC’s assessment in the summer of 2005 uncovered a history of operation as a Union 76 service station before the purchase by the department store.

Within two years, ACLT had identified a prospective developer interested in building a credit union on the well established corner lot. Additionally, the Anchorage Police Department was planning construction of a new sub-station adjacent to the site. This was just the type of project the ACLT was hoping for. The only question remaining was: what was the condition of the property?

In 2007, ACLT contracted a site characterization that identified subsurface contamination consistent with decades of use as a service station. Metals and petroleum were identified in various locations, but preliminary investigations indicated that the extent of contamination was not as bad as it could be. Nevertheless, the cost to clean it up was still beyond the capacity of ACLT, and until the environmental issue was resolved, the project was unlikely to move forward. The project was stalled, for now.

The State of Alaska typically looks to the current property owner to remedy environmental problems at a site, although it recognizes strict, joint, and several liability for costs incurred by the State related to a contaminated property. DEC's brownfield coordinator, John Carnahan, realized that no real financial assistance was available to help ACLT clean up the site. It also recognized the importance of this project to the entire Mountain View redevelopment project. This prompted some research into the past owner of the Union 76 station.

Carnahan contacted ChevronTexaco, the company that currently manages outstanding affairs associated with former Union 76, or UNOCAL, stations like this site. After a little research of their own, ChevronTexaco contacted ACLT and offered to work closely with them, with the intent of seeing the proposed bank and police substation development move forward. “This is brownfield coordination to best degree possible,” says John Carnahan. “This project could not succeed without the participation of ChevronTexaco taking the lead on financing not only the cleanup, but the demolition of the former structure as well. Most importantly, they are willing to work within a short schedule, attempting to see the project through to completion this field season, which is fast for most environmental projects.”

This complex project will likely face some hiccups along the way, but in the short term, the team consisting of ACLT, ChevronTexaco, DEC, and the prospective developer are moving forward. “You have to start these projects asking yourself how you will get it done, and not why it can’t be done,” reflects Carnahan. “With positive and cooperative working relationships across the board, there is no reason we won’t see a site ready for construction in the next couple of months.” We will be sure to let you know how things go in the next newsletter!

For more information on brownfield work in Mountain View, see the article in our Fall 2006 newsletter.

John Carnahan
DEC Brownfield Coordinator

Association of Village Council Presidents Hosts Brownfield Workshop in Bethel

DEC's brownfield program specialist, Sonja Benson, presented a one-and-a-half-day training workshop in Bethel, on the lower Kuskokwim River, in cooperation with the Association of Village Council Presidents (AVCP). AVCP serves 56 villages in a region that extends from Lime Village on the Stony River in the east, north to Kotlik on Norton Sound, west to Nunivak Island, and south to Platinum and Goodnews Bay. Thirteen environmental professionals from nine of these Native Alaskan Tribal communities attended the workshop. DEC’s Bethel-based spill response staff, Bob Carlson, and DEC brownfield intern, Ben Christian, as well as Minnie Fritts, AVCP grants specialist, and Brian Stephanoff, AVCP community planning specialist, assisted with the workshop.

Sonja working with IGAP environmental coordinators, Solomon Williams,  Mekoryuk (Nunivak Island), and Andrew Evan, Napaskiak.
Sonja working with IGAP environmental coordinators, Solomon Williams, Mekoryuk (Nunivak Island), and Andrew Evan, Napaskiak.

The workshop agenda included general background on DEC as an agency, brownfield basics, requesting brownfield funding and assistance from state and federal agencies, use of DEC's online contaminated sites database, spill reporting, best practices for home heating oil tanks, community mapping, and developing a contaminated site inventory. DEC hopes to expand this program and hold similar workshops once or twice annually in remote “hub” locations across the state to increase access to this information for rural residents. In the future we will seek the participation of other programs within the agency, to provide information on protection of drinking-water sources and solid waste management. Our goal is to be able to reach out to the large number of community environmental coordinators in rural areas of Alaska who may not be able to take advantage of the annual environmental conferences held in the larger cities.

We would like to thank AVCP for hosting this workshop and for their support of environmental education and the environmental and economic enhancement of communities in their region.

Sonja Benson
Brownfield Program Specialist

Detroit Brownfields Conference Draws Over 5,000 Participants

The national brownfields conference, Brownfields 2008, was held in Detroit's Cobo Center in early May. With its heavy-industrial history centered around automobile manufacturing, Detroit is a natural setting for brownfields redevelopment. The city's waterfront area has seen an impressive revitalization effort, transforming shuttered factories, abandoned silos, and rail yards into a vibrant center for businesses and tourist attractions.

Brownfields 2008

Brownfields 2008 drew more than 5,000 attendees to 155 educational sessions, including numerous presentations on tribal environmental programs, case studies, a full-day workshop on health impact assessments at brownfields, an environmental justice forum, and an environmental law symposium.

Mobile workshops included a wide range of options, from a kayak tour down the Detroit River to see waterfront brownfield redevelopments to a visit to the ecologically sustainable Detroit Zen Center. The exhibit hall had 245 exhibitors presenting information on the latest programs, services, technologies, and products available for brownfields redevelopment. The poster session held nearly 150 posters, including two by Alaska DEC's Brownfield Program staff.

The conference also hosted a film series, with features such as "Garbage: The Revolution Begins at Home," showing a family's coming to terms with the volume of trash they generate and where it ends up, and "Where do the Children Play?", which compares childhood as it was lived 50 years ago with today's restrictive patterns of sprawl, congestion, and endless suburban development.

One of the highlights of the conference was the keynote address by Ben Strickland, an inspirational speaker who shared how he developed a community vocational-educational center in Pittsburgh to help inner city youth and unemployed steelworkers restart their lives through new employment opportunities in horticulture and the culinary arts, with a big helping of hope. The national brownfields conference is an incredible opportunity for city planners, environmental professionals, design engineers, real estate developers, and community economic development specialists to see first-hand how brownfield redevelopment and creativity can restore and rejuvenate communities, land, and people.

The following is a breakdown of conference attendees by profession:

Academia - 6%
Local Government - 30%
Federal Government - 16%
State and Tribal Government - 15%
Community Groups - 6%
Business/Industry - 27%

For a look at the detailed conference agenda and to read the daily conference newspapers, visit this link:

Sonja Benson
Brownfield Program Specialist
John Carnahan
DEC Brownfield Coordinator

Brownfield Calendar

National Association of Development Organizations, Annual Training Conference

This meeting will include a mobile workshop on Saturday, October 4, "Neighborhood in Motion," to the Mountain View neighborhood of Anchorage, highlighting brownfield redevelopment of Anchorage's new Arts and Cultural District. This exciting new community effort is resulting in new job opportunities, new and revived businesses, greater tax base, higher property values and increased community pride, all centered around the arts. Participants will hear from local leaders about the revitalization effort. See the above article, "Brownfield Partnerships are the Key to Success in Mountain View," and visit for more information.

When: October 3-7, 2008
Where: Hilton Anchorage, 500 West Third Avenue

Western Brownfields Workshop

This conference offers excellent opportunities for networking with EPA and other brownfields grantees, sharing successes and lessons learned, learning to efficiently manage EPA grants, and asking questions of public, private, and nonprofit brownfields experts. Download the flyer and registration form.

When: October 8-10, 2008
Where: Westin San Diego

Alaska Tribal Conference on Environmental Management

The 14th annual ATCEM meeting brings together Tribal environmental staff from villages all over Alaska. This meeting provides a full educational program on waste management and pollution prevention along with fantastic networking opportunities.

When: October 27-29, 2008; with EPA IGAP training October 30-31
Where: Sheraton Anchorage

Grant Deadlines Approaching

The application period for EPA competitive brownfield grants, which include assessment, cleanup, and revolving loan fund grants, will be opening in August, with the application deadline in October. We will send out an announcement to our list serve when this grant application period opens and the application guidelines are posted on EPA's website.

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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!