Thursday, November 15, 2007

Brownfield Redevelopment Helps Communities and Businesses Prosper

Brownfields are no longer considered economic, social, and environmental burdens for the communities, corporations, and developers that have started to place an unprecedented interest in redeveloping these environmentally contaminated properties and restoring the sites to productive uses.

Technological developments that give developers faster, more accurate historical information has helped spur the increased interest, but so too has increased federal and state incentives to develop these properties, a sense of corporate social responsibility, and, ultimately, the scarcity of developable land.

In April 2007, Environmental Data Resources, Inc. (EDR) released the results of a survey conducted at the Risk Management Technologies Contaminated Property Transactions Conference in Washington, D.C., that found the number of corporations and municipalities actively pursuing redevelopment and divestment of brownfield sites has grown significantly over the past year. The 200 survey participants — among them the nation’s leading environmental attorneys, environmental consultants and bankers — indicated that valuations of brownfield redevelopment efforts are increasing because of this second look these properties now get.

    EDR polled the people behind the projects and found:
  • Seventy-six percent felt the national interest in identifying and divesting brownfields is based on an increased return on investments relating to the remediation of these sites. This compares to previous years when fewer developers were investing time and money in the sometimes lengthy and complex process of redeveloping brownfields.
  • Ninety-two percent said the trend will continue and within the next year more owners will divest or redevelop their sites, which is positive economic development news for urban areas and former manufacturing towns where these sites are primarily located.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency estimates there are between 400,000 and 1 million contaminated brownfield sites. These range from former gas stations with deposits of petroleum hydrocarbons and dry cleaner businesses that discarded hazardous chemicals to manufacturing gas plants that left behind significant sludge. Over the years, this presence of environmental issues often prevented the land from being redeveloped.

The history of these brownfield sites can be cryptic and come from many unreliable sources — from the local knowledge of the abandoned lots to the scattered and often incomplete federal records. However, more advanced industry tools are available to help developers identify hidden brownfield sites and the contaminants in these sites. Most of the investors in the redevelopment of these sites begin by identifying a geographic area of interest, and then use the tool offered through an aggregator of historical use information to create a database of property uses to identify potential brownfields in that region.

This is where accurate and easily understood environmental records, Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, and historic telephone directories are invaluable in confirming where there is environmental contamination, hazardous waste sites, and sites of leaking underground storage tanks. This critical information is discovered during the pre-purchase due diligence phase.

Investors and developers must also consider the new federal All Appropriate Inquiries rule, which has established a new standard of care for a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment. For investors considering brownfield development efforts, environmental attorneys and environmental professionals are paramount for understanding compliance issues such as this.

Taking advantage of Brownfield redevelopment opportunities will not only benefit investors economically, but the environment as well.

Jon Walker is managing director of EDR’s Corporate, Legal, and Government Services. He oversees development of new strategies, products, and services to support EDR’s current business in the corporate, legal, and government markets. Mr. Walker can be reached at (800) 720-6606. For more information, please visit the company’s website at

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

"Built green" applies to more than just your house

In real estate terms, green-built homes are fast becoming the real estate industry’s equivalent to the term organic food of the food industry. While it may still be establishing a foothold in the real estate market, it’s easy to anticipate a time that “green” homes will be the rule, not the exception, to their non-sustainably built, energy guzzling counterparts.

As currently described, green-built designation applies to the structure itself; environmental soil assessments are not typically part of the “green” evaluation. The fact is, while recycled carpets, sustainably harvested lumber and formaldehyde-free interiors provide owners with a green building, it does little to reduce the health and liability risk if construction has inadvertently taken place above a hazardous substance release.

Greenlight Soil Check provides homeowners both liability assurance and health assurances by providing them with a reasonable evaluation of their property. Realtors, brokers and financial lenders are beginning to see the need for ascertaining the environmental conditions of the property much as home inspections have become a standard condition of sale.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Growing Green Workshop in Port Hadlock Oct. 16

Women Entrepreneurs of Baltimore and EcoVentures International are offering a regional workshop on "green" enterprise development. This is a great opportunity to discover what opportunities exist in green microenterprise development and local strategies to make these a reality in our community. The free series of workshops will be held October 16, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in Port Hadlock, at the Community Learning Center, 201 West Patison, Port Hadlock, WA, 98339.

Speakers include: Lisa Smith from Enterprise for Equity, Mark Bowman from Shorebank Enterprise Cascadia, Denise Pranger and Ian Hanna from Northwest Natural Resouce Group, Joe Baisch from Big Quill, Kate Dean from Jefferson LandWorks Collaborative Outreach.

Workshop will include discussions, presentations, engaging conversations, and interactive sessions covering ...

Local environmental and economic development issues providing opportunities for poverty alleviation and self-employment.

Examples of green enterprise technologies and businesses from different parts of the US as opportunities for local green business development. Ranging from renewable energy and bio-gas technologies, to green building materials and sustainable agricultural practices.

Facilitated networking and sharing around local experience, projects, businesses and interest in green enterprise in your area.


Discovering latest developments and opportunities in micro / sustainable agriculture and aquaculture.

Exploring innovations and opportunities in renewable energy.

Considering developments and opportunities in local green economic development, including local food markets, eco-tourism and sustainable building techniques.

Regional success stories from green entrepreneurs in the region, sharing their business concepts and exciting successes along with the challenges they have faced.

Learn about value chain analysis and development for the sector and best practices in microenterprise development programs to support local economic development strategies.

Financial opportunities and innovative financing products for green businesses.

Strategies, partnerships, resources and next steps around poverty alleviation and self-employment opportunities around green enterprise for the community.

This FREE workshop is hosted by EcoVentures International (EVI) and Women Entrepreneurs of Baltimore (WEB), both non-profits operating in micro and small business development. Funded by Northwest Area Foundation. Local Co-sponsors include: Northwest Area Foundation, Shorebank Enterprise Cascadia, City of Port Townsend, Enterprise for Equity, Washington State University- Jefferson County Extension, Northwest Natural Resource Group

Please call Lawren, Pei or Ilan at EcoVentures International at 202-667-0802 for more details, or contact us at Register at

Friday, September 14, 2007

Two Cleanups Underway in Clallam County

The Washington State Department of Ecology Toxics Cleanup Program announced two voluntary cleanups are taking place in Clallam County. The Site Register is published every two weeks to inform you about public comment periods, public meetings, hearings, and other information related to the study and cleanup of hazardous waste sites under the Model Toxics Control Act, Chapter 70.105D RCW.
If you have questions or want to be added to the mailing list (electronic or paper) for the Site Register, contact Linda Thompson at 360/407-6069 or e-mail

Under Ecology’s Voluntary Cleanup Program (VCP), a property owner cleaning up a contaminated site pays a fee for Ecology review. When a cleanup is determined to be sufficient, Ecology issues a no further action decision. The two sites which joined the program in Clallam County are

Fairweather Subdivision,
9999 Fair Weather Dr, Sequim
Facility Site ID # 9943161 - Submitted 8/20/07.
Report received: Remedial Investigation Report.
Site status: Completed opinion letter.

Truck Town
1921 Hwy 101, 1921 Hwy 101 W, Port Angeles
Facility Site ID # 61984337 - Submitted 8/13/07.
Report received: Remedial Investigation Report.
Site status: Independent remedial action in process.

For information about the VCP program, contact: Chuck Cline, 360/407-6267 or e-mail

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Post Hazardous Waste Roundup - Leave anything behind?

It's commendable that you've cleaned up Grandpa's old workshop by taking those nasty solvents, leftover paint buckets, half empty bug sprays and used motor oil to the proper disposal/recycling facilities. Now the question remains, what's left underneath the storage area? Lets face it, storing chemicals in damp garages, crawlspaces, and drafty workshops is a convenient and common household practice. But over the years, it can become a real problem if any of those dangerous substances have leaked or spilled. When cleaning up an area that has been used for storage of household hazardous material, be sure to look for signs of staining or standing liquids, and pay attention to odors. If you suspect anything , it's a good idea to have it checked by someone who knows how to deal with it safely.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Green links - Golf course chemistry 101

The property was perfect; water view, mountain view, private back yard, right near the golf course. It had it all . . . In fact, it had more than the owners bargained for. The nearby golf course has been using chemicals designed to protect their expensive fairways and keep the well-groomed greens perfect. It's been demonstrated that people living near a golf course can be affected by sprays and dusts blown from the golf course onto their property and into their homes. Pesticides applied to the turf may also run off into surface waters or leach down to groundwater, contaminating their soil, and drinking water. Find out if your local golf course supports environmentally green greens. If not, it might be time to consider having your property tested.