How do I know if the property I own or am interested in buying/developing is a brownfield?
In simple terms, a property is considered a brownfield if contamination – or the possibility of contamination – is interfering with its reuse. An Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) will give you information about the history and current condition of your property so that you can make informed decisions and move forward with your plans.
If your property may be contaminated, you will have difficulty financing, developing, or selling it for its full value until you perform an assessment: Most lenders, developers, and purchasers will ask for an ESA on any commercial or industrial site. Unknown contamination can also pose a health risk to you or your neighbors.
What is involved in Environmental Site Assessment?
The first step for your property is a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment. For a Phase I ESA, a contractor will research the past and present uses of the site, review existing environmental studies, and conduct a preliminary site inspection to establish the likelihood of contamination. This investigation will determine whether or not further assessment is necessary.
If the Phase I ESA identifies "Recognized Environmental Conditions," a Phase II Environmental Site Assessment will be recommended. This step involves sampling the soil, water, and/or soil gas to identify the type and extent of contaminants.
A Phase II ESA is tailored to the specific conditions and intended future uses of the property. It will determine whether or not cleanup activities are necessary.
Isn’t this process very expensive? Does it take a long time?
Brownfield assessment and cleanup can be expensive - but without it, you may find it difficult or impossible to secure development financing, or to sell your property for its full value. The only way to find out if a site is clean - or how to get it clean - is to perform an ESA.
Funding may be available to help you move forward with site assessment and any cleanup that may be necessary, so that you can realize your vision for your property. Many of these funds are provided by grants, and are only available for a limited time.
A full environmental site assessment can take several months. This is a worthwhile investment of time compared to the risk of buying a site with unknown contamination, or finding contamination on your property when construction is already underway.
How can the Portland Brownfield Program assist me?
The Portland Brownfield Program provides technical and financial assistance to private businesses and landowners, prospective purchasers, community members, and nonprofit organizations. Financial assistance can include full funding of Phase I ESA, partial funding of Phase II ESA, and low-interest loans for cleanup. Even if you are not interested in or eligible for our financial assistance, we are here to answer any questions you have about contamination, assessment, cleanup, the regulatory process (including No Further Action Letters and Prospective Purchaser agreements), growing in urban soils, and any other topics related to contaminated land.
To learn more about the services we can provide for your property, contact the Portland Brownfield Program office at 503-823-7764, or download an Assessment Application here.
Why are brownfields a priority for Portland?
Brownfield revitalization protects human and environmental health, protects watersheds, increases the tax base, improves the economy, accommodates regional economic growth, provides jobs, improves community health and identity, and helps keep business in Portland. Take a look at some former Portland Brownfield Program Sites to see how the transformation takes place.