Brownfields Fundamentals: DNR’s Ready For Reuse Program Can Fund Your Community’s Environmental Cleanup Project

If you’re a local government professional but haven’t played a role in the environmental cleanup and redevelopment of a blighted property, the term “brownfield” may not be completely familiar. But chances are good that there’s one or more of them in your community.

By definition, a brownfield is a former industrial or commercial site where future use is affected by real or perceived environmental contamination. In your community, that may be a shuttered gas station on Main Street, or a former lumber or textile mill on the edge of town. It’s the site you often drive past and think to yourself, “We should do something about that. That property has potential.”

To be sure, most land in communities – large or small – is not contaminated and is suited for development. But even perceived environmental contamination can present barriers to land reuse. It is important to know that even when land does have environmental contamination, it often can be cleaned up and redeveloped at a reasonable cost and in a timely manner.

Redeveloping brownfield properties helps protect public health, reduces blight and enhances community safety. In many cases, it also creates jobs, generates local tax revenues, and may have positive impacts on nearby commercial and residential development.

Among the variety of resources and assistance that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) can bring to the table to help towns and cities across the state address brownfield cleanup and redevelopment challenges is the DNR’s Ready for Reuse program.

Ready for Reuse is a program managed by the DNR and funded through a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant. Since the DNR began offering the program in 2004, Ready for Reuse has funded 39 cleanup projects in Wisconsin to the tune of more than $11 million in awards. Ready for Reuse can be an attractive funding option for many projects, with flexible repayment schedules, no interest terms, and the possibility of 30-percent loan forgiveness.

Ready for Reuse offers financial assistance to local governments, tribes and non-profits at brownfield sites that are currently going through the Wis. Admin. Code NR chs. 700-799 cleanup process. Ready for Reuse can also be leveraged at sites that previously received case closure with the DNR but have residual contamination that needs to be managed during construction.

The DNR’s redevelopment specialists welcome the opportunity to meet with you and your key partners to discuss issues, answer questions and give everyone a better understanding of how the DNR can partner with your community to help reach your redevelopment goals. DNR staff offer expert advice regarding environmental liability protections, regulatory processes and financial award programs available for the investigation, remediation and redevelopment of a contaminated property.

To find out if a Ready for Reuse loan is right for your community, or other ways that the DNR can assist with your cleanup and redevelopment efforts, reach out to request a Green Team meeting.

ITRC Vapor Intrusion Mitigation Training Jan. 13 & 27

The Interstate Technology Regulatory Council (ITRC) will offer online, comprehensive vapor intrusion training based on recent, technical guidance from the national group.

The upcoming live webinars will cover the purpose and use of ITRC’s comprehensive web-based series of technical resources for Vapor Intrusion Mitigation.

The training consists of a series of eight modules on the sections listed below and will be presented over two, two-hour sessions:

  • Jan. 13, 2022 (noon to 2 p.m. CST)
  • Jan. 27, 2022 (noon to 2 p.m. CST)

Registration is available on the ITRC’s training and events webpage.

A link to the ITRC’s Technical Resources for Vapor Intrusion Mitigation is also posted on the DNR’s Vapor Intrusion Resources for Environmental Professionals webpage under the “Guidance and Forms” tab near the bottom of the page. This comprehensive document includes an interactive directory that includes 10 fact sheets, 16 technology information sheets, and four checklists, covering the following topics specific to vapor intrusion mitigation:

  • Conceptual site model
  • Public outreach
  • Rapid response and ventilation (for acute risk)
  • Active mitigation
  • Passive mitigation
  • Remediation and institutional controls
  • Design considerations
  • Post installation considerations
  • Operation, maintenance and monitoring/exit strategy
  • Emerging technology

While the documents are designed to assist state regulators, they also serve to raise awareness with environmental consultants and other industry professionals.

The online sessions will be repeated on June 2 and June 14, 2022, and again on Nov. 3 and Nov. 15, 2022. The vapor intrusion trainings are also available on-demand.

Site-specific questions regarding vapor intrusion in Wisconsin should be directed to the assigned DNR Project Manager. General questions can be directed to the contacts listed on the DNR’s Vapor Intrusion Resources for Environmental Professionals webpage.

Brownfield Fundamentals: Finding the (Not So) Hidden Gems In Your Community

Brownfields are everywhere. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates there are nearly 500,000 brownfield sites across the country, including approximately 10,000 in Wisconsin. In your community, it might be the abandoned gas station that closed long ago, or the textile mill on the edge of town that was sold off and is slowly ceasing operations, or even the 500-acre former auto assembly plant that was once the lifeblood of a thriving community.

Whatever the property, whether commercial or industrial, if the reuse of the property is hindered by suspected environmental contamination, it’s a brownfield. But with support, vision and some imagination, that brownfield property might be a diamond in the rough; and redeveloping that property may have benefits that extend far beyond the property line including:

  • Neighborhood revitalization
  • Increased tax revenues
  • Local economic growth and investment
  • Removal of blighted properties and harmful contamination from the environment

Take Stock

Wisconsin is unquestionably a beautiful state with abundant natural resources. Waterways, for example, are a common feature in many towns. Decades ago, community leaders recognized that developing businesses and industries near those waterways was the key to the community’s success.

Fast forward to today and those waterfront properties that have seen better days could once again play a significant role in reshaping your community.

Nearby natural resources may not be a town’s only selling point. What other features could be improved? A downtown business district with a shuttered storefront? An idled site that’s on the main road into your community?

Brownfields are opportunities in the making. The hidden gems are waiting to be discovered. Redeveloping a brownfield site can seem like a daunting task. For help creating an inventory of potential cleanup and redevelopment sites in your community, please visit the Brownfields Inventory Tool, offered by the Technical Assistance for Brownfields Program at Kansas State University.

Take Action

When a community (local government unit) takes ownership of a brownfield property, a variety of cleanup options and strategies exist that wouldn’t otherwise be available to the private sector.

If you’ve identified a potential site for environmental cleanup, but have lingering questions about the next steps, request a Green Team meeting with the brownfield specialists at the DNR. The DNR can offer guidance regarding:

  • Property acquisition
  • Environmental liability
  • Financial grant and loan award options

A DNR Green Team meeting brings the right people to the table to discuss issues, answer key questions and give everyone a better understanding of the cleanup and redevelopment project.

When your community is ready to take advantage of those hidden gems, the DNR is here to provide the help you need.

NR 700 Reporting Due Jan. 31

Semi-annual reporting for the period of July 1, 2021, to Dec. 31, 2021, is due by Jan. 31, 2022. Semi-annual reporting is required of responsible parties (RPs) for all open sites, including those sites the DNR formerly classified as “conditionally closed” in the Bureau for Remediation and Redevelopment Tracking System (BRRTS) online database. Consultants may submit these reports on behalf of RPs.

The DNR will send an email with a unique Report Identification (ID) number to contacts of sites listed in the database during the first week of January 2022. If you do not receive an email by Jan. 7, 2022, you can request a Report ID number by submitting the Report ID Request Form.

The Report ID number uniquely identifies the activity you can report, the reporting period and verifies the person using the Report ID is authorized to submit the report. If you have any questions, please contact Tim Zeichert at Timothy.Zeichert@wisconsin.gov or 608-219-2240.

State law requires semi-annual reports from people who meet the definition of a responsible party in NR 700. Property owners, such as local governments that have an exemption under Wis. Stats. §§ 292.11(9)(e) or 292.23, and lenders that have an exemption under Wis. Stats. § 292.21 for specific properties are not required to submit a semi-annual report for those exempt properties under state law.

Sites formerly classified by the DNR as “conditionally closed” are open sites that have not been granted case closure and, by definition, have remaining action(s) needed (e.g., properly abandoning monitoring wells or investigative waste needing to be removed).

Semi-annual reporting for sites formerly classified as “conditionally closed” should indicate what actions are being taken to complete the remaining actions.

The next reporting period is from Jan. 1, 2022, to June 30, 2022.

DNR’s RR Program Seeks Vapor Intrusion Expert In Southeast Region

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR)’s Remediation and Redevelopment (RR) Program is recruiting a Vapor Intrusion Specialist in the DNR’s Southeast Region.

This position will serve as the RR Program’s regional coordinator for assessment of vapor intrusion of volatile compounds, mitigation and development of statewide policy related to vapor intrusion. This person will develop and interpret administrative rules, guidance documents and technical documents related to the assessment, mitigation and remediation of vapor phase contamination.

This position reports to the Complex Projects and Technical Resources Section Chief and will be located in the DNR’s Milwaukee office. The deadline to apply for this position is Jan. 2, 2022.

A full position description, including necessary qualifications, is available online at the Wisc.jobs website (Job ID number 3921).

DNR Awards Brownfields Grant To City Of Beaver Dam

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has awarded a Brownfields Grant to the City of Beaver Dam to assist with the investigation of potential environmental contamination at the site of a former auto dealership and repair shop.

The grant is from the DNR’s Wisconsin Assessment Monies program, which provides contractor services worth up to $35,000 for the environmental assessment of eligible brownfields sites.

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Now Available: Publication RR-619, Guidance: General Liability Clarification Letters

Following a public comment period and consideration of the comments received, the publication RR-619, Guidance: General Liability Clarification Letters, is now posted and available online.

The document can be found here. Additional documents and guidance from the Remediation and Redevelopment Program may be found using the search tools available on the publications and forms webpage.

RR-619 describes when general liability clarification letters, as defined in Wis. Stat. § 292.55, may be helpful and how parties can request a general liability clarification letter from the DNR.

Questions regarding these documents may be submitted to Michael Prager at Michael.Prager@wisconsin.gov.

Remediation and Redevelopment Program 128(a) Year-End Report Available

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR)’s Remediation and Redevelopment (RR) Program’s year-end report to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is now available.

The CERCLA Section 128(a) Grant Final Report, for the reporting period of Oct. 1, 2020 to Sept. 30, 2021, highlights work undertaken and completed within the latest funding year.

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New Community Resource For Vapor Intrusion Evaluation

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is now offering an online resource tool for local governments, neighborhood associations and property owners to evaluate sources and minimize the risks of vapor intrusion from historical dry-cleaning operations in their communities.

For much of the 1900s, dry cleaning was a common business especially in Iarge cities where the service could be found on almost every commercial block. The disposal or spilling of cleaning solvents used by historical dry cleaners, long before current waste management laws were in effect, may have resulted in chemical vapors in the ground that can migrate into present-day buildings.

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