Local governments

2018 Brownfields Conference for Local Governments a Success in Stevens Point

A crowd of nearly 100 people attended the Remediation and Redevelopment Program’s recent conference, Brownfields for Local Government Officials, held May 10, 2018 in Stevens Point.

The one-day conference spanned a host of land recycling issues, but did not include the technical topics often reserved for other events. Throughout the day, participants heard from developers, local government colleagues, and others about the tools and strategies to capitalize on underused, or even abandoned, properties.

The day began with an overview of the DNR’s Brownfields Program, including explanations of the financial aid and technical assistance that staff can provide. Other sessions included panel discussions with program staff (formerly private sector consultants) and with experienced developers familiar with the unique requirements of brownfields redevelopment.

Attendees also heard from local government leaders about devising county-wide redevelopment plans, state-assisted cost recovery mechanisms, and both state and federal brownfields assistance programs, including the Technical Assistance for Brownfields (TAB) program, a joint effort through the EPA and Kansas State University.

Conference presentations can be found in the program’s Training Library.

A similar conference will be held again in 2020.

Umpire Process: Helping Local Governments Take Charge of Brownfields

Wisconsin local governments seeking to catalyze redevelopment by cleaning up local brownfields have a powerful tool in their toolkit. The state’s Local Government Unit (LGU) Negotiation and Cost Recovery law lets cities, villages, counties, and other LGUs identify parties that are responsible for contamination at LGU-owned sites and then recover cleanup costs from them. This self-contained process includes public input and encourages responsible parties to agree on sharing cleanup costs – saving time and money – with help from a DNR-appointed “umpire,” or facilitator.

LGUs can pursue this process alongside the state regulatory process for cleanup, which allows local leaders to gauge cost recovery prospects while during the remedial action planning phase. The cost recovery process, known informally as the “Umpire Process,” is available at properties owned (either entirely or partially) by the LGU.

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Free Professional Brownfields Assistance for Local Governments

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency funds professional service providers around the country to help local governments and tribes affected by environmental issues at brownfield properties. These professionals are part of the Technical Assistance for Brownfields (TAB) program and serve as no-cost independent advisors and resource providers for community revitalization efforts.

Wisconsin is fortunate to have two very experienced and talented TAB service providers available to our communities. Margaret Renas, from the Chicago-based nonprofit Delta Institute, is a professional engineer with a great deal of environmental consulting and community redevelopment experience. Maggie Egbarts, from Kansas State University, is the TAB Coordinator for EPA Regions 5 and 7, and has many years of experience in environmental assessment, cleanup, regulatory compliance and revitalization activities.

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DNR, Wisconsin Communities Receive $2.9M in EPA Brownfields Awards for FY2018

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ Remediation and Redevelopment Program – along with its seven regional planning commission partners – is the recipient of a $600,000 US EPA Brownfields Grant.

The Wisconsin Brownfields Coalition will use this money to continue the Wisconsin Assessment Monies (WAM) program which provides funding to aid local governments and other eligible applicants in assessing and investigating environmental contamination at brownfields sites throughout the state. The coalition will target closed and closing manufacturing facilities to assess potential environmental contamination that could complicate reuse of the properties.

In addition to the Wisconsin DNR’s award, several other Wisconsin communities and entities were awarded US EPA Brownfields Grants:

  • Stevens Point – $300,000
  • Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee – $900,000
  • Racine – $300,000
  • Manitowoc – $300,000
  • Manitowoc Community Development Authority – $200,000
  • Bay-Lake Regional Planning Commission – $300,000

“Clearly there is no shortage of creativity, innovation and ingenuity when it comes to brownfields redevelopment projects in the great State of Wisconsin,” said EPA Region 5 Administrator and former Wisconsin DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp. “EPA looks forward to expanding our work with our partners to redevelop brownfields so they can once again be thriving parts of their communities – spurring local economies with jobs and new businesses as well as generating tax revenues and spending.”

A full version of the US EPA press release can be found here.

TAB Program to Host May 9 Webinar on BUILD Act

The BUILD Act (Brownfields Utilization, Investment and Local Development) was signed into law in March 2018 and is the first major legislative change to Brownfields since passage of the original statute in 2002. Specific changes include: increased eligibility for funding, additional liability protections, and changes to grant programs, just to name a few.

Join Kansas State University Technical Assistance to Brownfields Program for a free, National TAB webinar, on Wednesday, May 9 at 1:00 pm (Central), to hear about how the BUILD Act will improve the national brownfields program and support community brownfields revitalization. The webinar will feature officials from U.S. EPA, a local community, national brownfield experts, and the coordinator of the National Brownfields Coalition. Click here to register and visit the event web page to get more information about this May 9 BUILD Act webinar.

City of Oshkosh Completes Last Phase of Riverfront Brownfields Cleanup

In June 2017, the city of Oshkosh received the final Wisconsin DNR approval of the remediation of the former Mercury Marine facility on the Fox River. In 2006, the city acquired the closed facility from Mercury Marine with hopes to convert the property into a new and improved community asset. The city used EPA brownfields grants for assessment and cleanup work on the properties as well as state, city, and private funding.

Oshkosh Riverwalk

A new riverwalk provides additional community access to the waterfront.

This property housed industrial facilities since the mid-1800s. Past uses of the land include a lumber business, candle company, and a bulk fuel tank farm. The site was then owned by the Kiekhaefer Aeromarine Company who then sold it to Mercury Marine in the mid-1970s. A range of contamination types were identified at the site as well as several feet of waste fill across the entire property. Metals, petroleum contamination, and chlorinated compounds were identified in the soil and groundwater.

The city removed much of the contamination while using buildings and parking lots to serve as a cover over the residual contaminated soil. In addition, the cleanup included an innovative approach where they left one area of heavily contaminated soil under a newly created, city owned, small park. This park serves as a protective barrier, saves project funds and creates additional public green space. This park connects to a new public riverwalk and piers along the river. The city partnered with a private developer to build three high quality apartment buildings, two specifically for senior residents. The site went through the DNR’s Voluntary Party Liability Exemption (VPLE) program and received a Certificate of Completion in August 2017 which provides liability protections for current and future property owners.

RR Program’s Brownfields Conference for Local Government Returns May 10 to Stevens Point

Registration is now open for the 2018 Brownfields Conference for Local Government: Revitalization Tools and Techniques – Getting to Groundbreaking, coming May 10 to the Stevens Point Holiday Inn Convention Center.

This day-long event will cover a variety of cleanup and redevelopment topics of interest to communities across the state, including:

  • Local government success stories and lessons learned
  • The real estate developer’s perspective
  • The DNR’s brownfields toolbox
  • Federal and state resources for brownfields redevelopment
  • Environmental consultant and community relationships

“The DNR’s Remediation and Redevelopment program is honored to once again host local government officials and non-profit representatives at this event,” said Christine Haag, Brownfields and Outreach Section Chief at the DNR. “We enjoy strong partnerships with many communities across the state. This conference is a chance for us to come together and share the collective knowledge and skills regarding the community’s role in environmental cleanups and the productive reuse of brownfields.”

Registration for the 2018 Brownfields Conference for Local Government is limited and reserved for government officials and non-profit representatives through April 15 at the rate of $35. The following day, registration increases to $50 and is open to all guests. (Please note: technical topics will not be discussed during this conference; Consultants’ Days events will return in the spring of 2019.)

To learn more about the conference and to stay up to date with the latest information, please visit the RR Program’s conference and training web page.

 

Demolitions Done Right

Redeveloping old commercial and industrial properties often involves the demolition of buildings and other structures. In addition to carefully evaluating potential asbestos abatement and demolition contractors, the DNR recommends reviewing the agency’s “demolition, construction and renovation” web page to access important information about statutory and regulatory requirements related to demolition activities. Asbestos, lead, mercury and PCBs are top concerns.

Two key publications include, WA-651: Planning your demolition or renovation project, and AM-366: What you need to know about renovation and demolition.

Completion and submittal of Form 4500-113: Notification for Demolition and/or Renovation is always required, at least 10 days prior to the demolition work.

US EPA Can Help Remove Contaminants at Abandoned Properties

The US EPA can help your community take care of abandoned or otherwise derelict properties that contain drums, barrels and other containers filled with hazardous substances. EPA staff will evaluate the site, analyze the chemicals and search for anyone involved in abandoning or disposing of the hazardous materials on the property.

If a responsible party is located, EPA will work with them to remove and clean up the hazardous materials. If no responsible party is found or the party is unable to complete the work, EPA may directly perform actions needed to address imminent threats. EPA seeks cost recovery from responsible parties whenever appropriate.

At smaller sites, municipalities can conduct the response action themselves and recover costs from EPA through the Local Governments Reimbursement Program. Reimbursement can include such costs as materials and supplies, renting or leasing equipment, special technical and laboratory services, evacuation services, decontamination of equipment, overtime pay for employees, and replacement of equipment that is lost or destroyed.

Contact John Sager, Federal Removals Coordinator at DNR, to see if a property in your community may be eligible for EPA assistance. His phone number is (715) 392-7822, and his email address is John.Sager@wisconsin.gov.

“All Aboard!” Spooner’s Historic Roundhouse Revival

Spooner Roundhouse

Contaminated soils from around the Roundhouse were excavated and hauled off site to the old Spooner Landfill. The Roundhouse area was then capped and seeded. This area will be used for a public space. Spooner will be renovating the Roundhouse as a public space.

The city of Spooner, located in northwestern Wisconsin, pop. 2,700, has a rich railroad heritage. The city’s origin and colorful history is rooted in the railroad expansion of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Spooner was an important railroad center of the Chicago and North Western Railway for many years. A historic railway roundhouse, a surviving turntable, and other aspects of the original rail yard still exist. The Spooner roundhouse is one of the few remaining structures of its kind.

Several local and state organizations have collaborated for years on efforts to clean up environmental contamination and preserve this unique and historic landmark property. The land is in the “Museum District” which also includes the Railroad Memories Museum and the Wisconsin Canoe Heritage Museum. The Roundhouse property includes one of the only working turntables in the state. The Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad operates active tracks on the site.

Remediated dirt

The regulatory issues involved in this project were handled through a collaboration of the Wisconsin DNR’s R&R and Waste and Materials Management programs. The excavated soils were placed at the old Spooner Landfill and used as part of a recapping project. The contaminated soils remaining at the site were capped and seeded.

Many years of railroad activities and subsequent manufacturing uses led to concerns about possible environmental contamination on the property. Section 128(a) funding from the EPA contributed to several successful Green Team project meetings with the Wisconsin DNR, the city of Spooner, and other stakeholders. Section 128(a) funds also supported the Wisconsin DNR’s efforts to counsel the city on managing environmental liability and other communications with the city. Spooner further received Phase I ESA contractor services through the Wisconsin DNR’s Wisconsin Assessments Money (WAM) program, funded by the EPA ARC Assessment grants, prior to its acquisition of the roundhouse property.

Contaminated soils from around the roundhouse were excavated and disposed of at the old city landfill, as part of a recapping project. The roundhouse property was then capped and seeded. The property will be open to the public, and the city of Spooner is also renovating the roundhouse as a public space.

Roundhouse turntable

The Roundhouse property includes one of the only working turntables in the state.

The success of this northern Wisconsin cleanup site is highlighted in the recent year-end Report, a summary of the outcomes funded by a Section 128(a) grant from the US EPA made to the Wisconsin DNR’s Brownfields program. Previous 128(a) reports, including mid-year and year-end summaries going back to 2012, can be found on the DNR’s RR Program web page.