Local governments

DNR’s Database Of Remediation And Redevelopment Activities Can Help Local Governments

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) maintains a public database of locations with remediation and redevelopment activities in Wisconsin.

The database is referred to as the DNR’s Bureau of Remediation and Redevelopment Tracking System on the web. A visual display of much of the information is available on the web-based mapping system, RR Sites Map.

Over 95,000 properties are in included in the database. Contaminated sites (i.e., the physical area of environmental contamination) affect properties in all counties and in approximately 95% of all cities, towns and villages in Wisconsin. The system includes links to numerous letters, reports and other information about the properties.

The DNR encourages local governmental units to use the database and RR Sites Map to identify contaminated and cleaned up properties within their communities. Information from the database and RR Sites Map may be useful to local governments when:

  • Identifying potential health and safety concerns in the community
  • Evaluating potential real estate transactions (e.g., conducting due diligence activities prior to the initiation of condemnation, tax foreclosure and other property acquisitions efforts)
  • Considering issuance of permits or approving plans for development – this includes understanding the status of contamination at sites where the cleanup is complete because residual contamination may affect the allowed uses and redevelopment options for a property, or require ongoing maintenance (e.g., caps over contaminated areas)
  • Reviewing proposed public works and utility projects to determine feasibility and whether contaminated material needs to be managed
  • Understanding the status of the property within the cleanup process, including what types of contamination is present, what needs to be done to satisfy regulatory requirements, and who is responsible for completing the necessary work

DNR staff are also available to help. Local governments can contact a brownfields specialist or schedule a “Green Team” meeting with DNR to discuss specific properties.

For more information about how to use the database, go to https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/Brownfields/botwHelp.html

Free, Professional Services To Help Your Community With Brownfield Properties

Does your community have any run-down, tax delinquent or otherwise derelict properties that you would like to see get redeveloped? Is the reuse of these properties complicated by known or potential environmental contamination? If so, help is available.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) funds a national program run by Kansas State University that provides free assistance to help communities, tribes and nonprofit organizations get brownfield properties redeveloped.

The program is named the Technical Assistance for Brownfields program, or KSU TAB for short. Contact Beth Grigsby, KSU TAB Regional Coordinator, at 317-601-3839 or bethgrigsbylpg@gmail.com to ask about and apply for services for your community.

KSU TAB Services Include:

  • Help identifying and inventorying brownfields
  • Strategic planning and redevelopment visioning
  • Assistance in identifying stakeholders and partners
  • Economic feasibility and sustainability analysis
  • Educational workshops
  • Community outreach and input
  • Help in identifying funding sources
  • Resource roundtables, funding strategies
  • Review of grant applications
  • Assistance with the use of the TAB EZ tool to write individual grant applications
  • Help finding and evaluating environmental consultants
  • Assistance with request for qualifications (RFQs), request for proposals (RFPs) and evaluation criteria
  • Review of plans and technical reports
  • Assistance with understanding results of Phase I, II environmental site assessment reports and cleanup plans

The DNR also has staff who can help your community with brownfield properties. More information and resources about brownfield redevelopment in Wisconsin is available on the DNR’s brownfields webpage or by contacting DNR brownfields staff.

Now Available: Publication RR-0128, Green Team Assistance for Contaminated Properties

The publication RR-0128, Green Team Assistance for Contaminated Properties, 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.

The purpose of the guidance is to provide information about DNR’s Green Team meetings, which are an effective and efficient way for local governments to evaluate options, plan for and work through a brownfield project.

Questions regarding this document may be submitted to Barry Ashenfelter at barry.ashenfelter@wisconsin.gov.

Brownfields Fundamentals: Cleanup Collaboration Leverages Funding

The benefits of cleaning up and redeveloping brownfield properties are significant. Returning underused and unsightly commercial and industrial properties back to productive use protects public health and promotes community vitality.

State and federal financial assistance for brownfield revitalization is available in many forms for local governments. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) can help your community put all the pieces together, address environmental contamination and move these projects forward.

Gather Your Team

Once you identify one or more brownfield properties in your community that will likely sit empty for years without local government involvement, contact the DNR to request a Green Team meeting with brownfield specialists. The DNR staff can help your community in many ways, including:

  • Identifying property acquisition methods that give liability exemptions to local governments;
  • Managing liability concerns throughout the cleanup process;
  • Understanding the process of assessing, investigating and cleaning up brownfield properties; and
  • Identifying and explaining financial assistance options.

In addition to bringing the right people to the project conversation, a Green Team meeting will help your community understand how to get started and identify potential funding sources that work well together. Local governments can request as many Green Team meetings as needed to fully understand the technical cleanup path to site closure, and an adjacent funding strategy. The DNR understands that brownfield properties are a burden for local governments and wants to help repurpose these properties.

Assess Brownfield Properties With DNR Contractor Service Grants

Environmental assessment, performed by qualified private sector environmental professionals, is typically the first phase of the brownfield property remediation and reuse process. Financial assistance programs that are frequently paired are the Wisconsin Assessment Monies program (WAM), managed by the DNR, and the Site Assessment Grant (SAG) program, offered by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC).

WAM is a contractor services award program that funds Phase I and Phase II environmental site assessments, up to $35,000. Limited site investigation work may also be funded at some properties. SAG funds environmental assessment and demolition activities.

When applications from local governments are timed right, funding sources can combine to provide broad coverage of environmental assessment needs. The DNR’s WAM award disbursements can also be used to meet WEDC’s SAG financial match requirements.

Clean Up Brownfield Properties With State Loans And Grants

Following site assessment and investigation activities at a property, cleanup work may be needed. With a good plan in place and consistent communication with the DNR, contamination cleanup funding sources can be secured by local governments and lined up to keep the work progressing without delay.

The DNR’s Ready for Reuse revolving loan fund program provides 0% interest-free loan funding for environmental remediation activities. In some situations, partial loan forgiveness is also possible.

The Brownfields Grant Program offered by WEDC can fund site investigation activities, remediation work and subsequent environmental monitoring.

Like the assessment funding programs, the DNR’s Ready for Reuse loans and WEDC’s Brownfields Grants complement each other to provide broad coverage of cleanup needs. They help keep remedial work progressing toward site closure and, when coordinated, can be leveraged to cover match requirements, which minimizes out of pocket expenses for local governments.

Cleaning up and redeveloping a brownfield property takes time, but with Green Team help from the DNR and the support of state financial partners, a successful redevelopment is possible. Many communities have effectively cleaned up and repurposed brownfield properties (see Brownfield Success Stories). The DNR is happy to help you and your community with your cleanup and redevelopment efforts. Request a Green Team meeting and start the conversation today!

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.

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.

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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