Frequently Asked Questions

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What is a brownfield site?

A brownfield site is property that is or may be contaminated by the presence of a hazardous contaminant or other environmental contamination. This poses a threat to the users of the property and complicates expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of the property. Local government leadership is often needed to bring productive uses back to brownfield sites. According to Wisconsin DNR, brownfields can vary greatly in size, location, age, and previous uses: “a brownfield can be anything from a 500-acre former automobile assembly plant to a small, abandoned gas station.”

See the US EPA brownfields overview for more information.

What is the process for assessing brownfield sites?

A potential brownfield site may go through multiple assessments to determine whether the site is truly contaminated and how the conditions of the site may pose risk to people who use the property.

A Phase I Environmental Site Assessment evaluates whether the site is contaminated. It looks at records and government databases, interacts with owners, neighborhoods, and past workers, and includes an inspection of the site and current conditions. If the site is found to have known or potential contamination, the process moves to a Phase II Environmental Site Assessment.

A Phase II Environmental Site Assessment identifies chemicals of concern and completes soil, groundwater, and other media sampling. Additional areas of concern are sampled after reviewing the results, and cleanup plans are developed, if needed.

Read a more in-depth description of Phase I and Phase II Environmental Site Assessments on this US EPA fact sheet.

How do I know if a site is eligible?

The United States EPA determines eligibility of brownfield sites based on the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) § 104(k). CERCLA defines brownfields as “...real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.” These sites can be residential, commercial, or industrial. Eligible sites also include sites contaminated by controlled substances, sites contaminated by petroleum, and mine-scarred lands.

More detailed information is provided by the US EPA in this document. The EPA also provides a checklist to determine site eligibility for Phase II Environmental Site Assessments.

How can I submit a property for brownfield assessment/redevelopment?

The grant coalition partners provide a site submission form for potential sites to be assessed. Staff monitor the form's responses and will reach out to submission contacts with further information, including funding opportunities. Visit the Site Submission tab to submit a potential brownfield site in the Calumet-Outagamie Counties region.

What are the benefits of brownfield redevelopment?

Brownfield redevelopment creates numerous environmental and economic benefits. Some of these benefits include: neighborhood revitalization, job creation, improved safety, increased local tax base, reduced development pressure on open and natural lands, improved and protected environment.

What can the property be used for?

Brownfield properties can be transformed and redeveloped into almost anything. After appropriate assessment and remediation, brownfield sites can be developed into schools, parks, housing, office spaces, or mixed-use centers, though the opportunities are endless. Check out USEPA’s Brownfield Grant Recipient Success Stories interactive map or the WDNR’s Wisconsin Brownfield Success Stories Story Map for a wide variety of past examples of redevelopment.

What other funding is available for brownfields in Wisconsin?

In Wisconsin, funding for brownfield assessment and redevelopment is available through the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resource (WI DNR) and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC).