City of second chance soils

Read the full story from the American Society of Agronomy.

On the South Side of Chicago, East 87th Street ends in a gentle curve more suited to a suburban neighborhood than a gritty industrial area. A few steps further and you’re at Lake Michigan’s shoreline. Welcome to Steelworkers Park.

Once the world’s largest steel working mill, the property was literally built from the waste product of the steel industry: slag. This hard, gravelly scrap was dumped to fill in the natural marsh along the lakeshore. When U.S. Steel’s South Works closed in 1992, the deep and unforgiving slag infill remained.

The “City of Big Shoulders” found itself the owner of an abandoned slag brownfield along Lake Michigan’s shoreline, less than 10 miles from downtown. The area is also part of the Calumet Region—a confluence of three rivers into Lake Michigan. Chicago’s 1909 vision to keep the shoreline “forever free and clear for all to enjoy” had a second chance—if it was affordable.

Enter the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. Along with the Chicago Park District, they were asked to evaluate the site and demonstrate the feasibility of rehabilitating the forbidding slag surface into parkland.

Lakhwinder Hundal, Tom Granato, and rest of the Water Reclamation District team took on the challenge. With a size of 511 football fields, the entire property would require over 63,000 dump trucks of topsoil. The cost would be prohibitive—and take good soil away from its home.

The team had a better plan. For this second-chance site, they gave resources already available, biosolids and dredged sediments, a second life. This re-purposing meant what could have been an expense was instead a blessing…

Read more about Hundal’s work in Journal of Environmental Quality. For more on confronting the challenges of urban soils, see

Developing Green Job Opportunities in Brownfields-Impacted Communities

Read the full post at EPA Connect.

The first seeds of brownfields job training—and of the brownfields program itself—emerged in the early 1990s, reflecting our growing concern for environmental equity (now known as environmental justice). Back then, we provided funds for the assessment and cleanup of abandoned and potentially contaminated sites through brownfields grants. The funds brought job opportunities to those communities where the assessments and cleanups were taking place, but there was one problem. The jobs were going to environmental professionals from other cities because, more times than not, local residents lacked the environmental training these jobs demanded.

How a Polluted Industrial Site Became Amsterdam’s Most Interesting Neighborhood

Read the full story in CityLab.

Just across the River IJ from central Amsterdam’s waterfront sits an old industrial area that once was left for dead.

The area known as Buiksloterham was home to a Fokker airplane factory, a Shell oil laboratory, a large shipbuilding industry and other manufacturing. Over time, most of the companies here either died or moved out of the area. They left behind a waterfront wasteland where the soil in some areas was polluted. After years of hoping for an industrial revival that never quite came, city leaders concluded about 10 years ago that it was time for Buiksloterham to move on.

That’s when things got interesting—and when Buiksloterham became a model for any city wrestling with what to do with a decaying industrial zone.

Siting Renewable Energy on Potentially Contaminated Lands, Landfills, and Mine Sites

EPA is encouraging renewable energy development on current and formerly contaminated lands, landfills, and mine sites when it is aligned with the community’s vision for the site. This initiative identifies the renewable energy potential of these sites and provides other useful resources for communities, developers, industry, state and local governments or anyone interested in reusing these sites for renewable energy development.

This Abandoned Coal Mine In Scotland Is Now A Modern-Day Stonehenge

Read the full story in Fast Company.

In five years, Scotland plans to run on nothing but renewable energy. The country’s few remaining coal mines are shutting down, leaving a question: How should towns deal with the ugly scars left behind by abandoned mines?

Near the village of Sanquhar, the answer is a massive, 55-acre work of land art. Looking like a modern Stonehenge, it builds a miniature multiverse from 2,000 boulders found on the site.

Attracting Infill Development in Distressed Communities

Many communities across the country have been revitalizing their older neighborhoods, traditional downtowns, and central business districts. However, economically distressed communities have been less able to attract this kind of infill development and attain the accompanying economic, environmental, health, and quality of life benefits.

EPA’s new report, Attracting Infill Development in Distressed Communities: 30 Strategies, can help these communities determine their readiness to pursue infill development and identify strategies to better position themselves to attract infill development.

  • It presents strategies and case studies to establish priorities, policies, and partnerships and change public perceptions, which can help make infill development more feasible.
  • It discusses innovative strategies to help finance infill development and replace aging infrastructure.
  • It includes comprehensive self-assessment questions communities can answer to determine if they are ready to pursue infill development and if particular strategies are appropriate for their context.

Many of the strategies in this publication stem from work in Fresno, California, that was part of the Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) Initiative, which provides intensive technical assistance and capacity building to economically distressed cities. EPA and the state of California partnered with the city to convene a task force of experts in development finance, law, public policy, planning, and business to identify strategies to promote infill that were feasible in Fresno’s challenging economic and fiscal environment. EPA developed this publication based in part on the task force’s work.

EPA Announces $54.3 Million to Assess and Clean Up Contaminated Sites, Revitalize Communities, Leverage Jobs and Promote Economic Redevelopment Nationwide

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced the selection of 243 new grant investments totaling $54.3 million to 147 communities across the U.S. This investment will provide communities with funding necessary to assess, clean up and redevelop contaminated properties, boost local economies and leverage jobs while protecting public health and the environment. Recipients will each receive approximately $200,000 – $600,000 in funding toward EPA cooperative agreements.

EPA’s Brownfields grants provide resources early which is critical for the success of communities’ ability to leverage additional partnerships and resources. The community leaders – represented by local governments, states, tribes, quasi-governmental organizations, and non-profit entities have demonstrated strong partnerships and plan to leverage the EPA grants with other public-private investments. They use an inclusive process to help spur the redevelopment of vacant, former manufacturing and commercial sites for broader revitalization in their downtowns. This results in a transformed economy and environment while addressing poverty and economic distress.

“Brownfield sites – because of their locations and associated infrastructure advantages – are community assets and a key component of the Obama Administration’s efforts to provide tools to sustainably revitalize communities and foster economic development,” said Mathy Stanislaus, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response. “These communities have demonstrated a plan to leverage their grants and partnerships to achieve economic and environmental revitalization to meet their needs for jobs. These critical EPA resources are going into communities with populations ranging from 89 to 1.4 million, and more than half under 100,000. The grants will help transform brownfield sites, such as former manufacturing and mill sites, into productive end uses which directly benefit community residents and create opportunities including increased housing options, recreational spaces, and jobs.”

Among the communities selected for funding, more than thirty percent have been affected by plant closures, forty percent by significant economic disruptions, and forty-two percent by adverse natural disasters. The small City of Palatka, Florida for example, was declared an emergency area following the devastation of two tropical storms, and has also suffered economically from the closing of Georgia-Pacific paper towel manufacturing line and the lay-off of 130 employees from the regional water management company. Being selected for a $400,000 assessment grant will allow this town of just over 10,000 residents to support their downtown and riverfront redevelopment plans and help restore the local economy.

This latest funding advances EPA’s broader commitment to making a visible difference in communities that focuses on better coordinating federal investments to help environmentally overburdened, underserved, and economically distressed communities address local priorities. Communities selected this year demonstrate a high level of preparedness to undertake specific projects as they have firm commitments of leveraged funds to move projects forward. An impressive forty-five percent of the recipients have secured public and private resources which directly align and further the efforts of proposed projects.

San Antonio, Texas, selected for a $400,000 assessment grant, will focus on three priority areas to restore urban waterways, attract commercial development, construct new multifamily housing, and sustainably reuse existing buildings. By creatively combining available resources, the city secured more than $470 million to advance community goals which will help ensure success of revitalizing the priority areas.

EPA continues to help new communities to address Brownfields sites plaguing their neighborhoods. First-time recipient Columbus, Indiana plans to use a $400,000 assessment grant award to perform assessments that align with and promote the city’s strategic plan to expand residential and educational opportunities for its residents, enhance greenspace and boost the economy with new retail stores and services.

EPA’s grant awards support both urban and rural communities in their efforts to address their brownfields concerns. More than fifty-five percent of the communities selected are cities and towns with populations of 100,000 or less, of which forty-four percent are very small rural communities with populations of 10,000 or less. The Lower Brule Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, population 1,664, will use its $200,000 cleanup grant to remove contamination from the Former Housing Authority Building located in the middle of town and directly adjacent to an elementary school. Addressing contamination of the deteriorating building will enhance the environmental and public welfare of the resident and provide other direct community benefits by allowing the tribe to relocate their local Boys & Girls Club.

Approximately $17 million of the assessment and cleanup funding will go to applicants who are also Brownfields Area-Wide Planning grant recipients and HUD-DOT-EPA partnership communities. This funding will help communities clean up and reuse brownfield sites to produce community assets such as housing, recreation and open space, health facilities, create employment, education, social services, transportation options, infrastructure and commerce opportunities. For example, the Camden Redevelopment Agency in New Jersey will receive three $200,000 cleanup grant awards, and a $200,000 assess grant which will lead to the redevelopment of a 3.6-acre mercury and lead contaminated Camden Laboratories site into mixed residential and commercial use. Clark County in Nevada will receive a $500,000 assessment coalition grant award to address the Maryland Parkway High Capacity Corridor in the heart of the Las Vegas’ urban core. As the region’s first multi-modal corridor, over the next 20 years, the development will generate much needed jobs and will spur additional development and investments in the area.

Since the inception of the EPA’s Brownfields Program in 1995, cumulative brownfield program investments have leveraged more than $22 billion from a variety of public and private sources for cleanup and redevelopment activities. This equates to an average of $17.79 leveraged per EPA brownfield dollar expended. These investments have resulted in approximately 105,942 jobs nationwide. EPA’s Brownfields Program empowers states, communities, and other stakeholders to work together to prevent, assess, safely clean up, and sustainably reuse brownfields sites.