Money can come to find, clean up contaminated sites


What is an industrial wasteland?

Brownfields are abandoned or underutilized properties, often former industrial sites, where possible persistent contamination hinders redevelopment. According to Abinash Agrawal, professor of earth and environmental sciences at Wright State University, identifying brownfields and knowing the type of contamination in dirt, water and air are preliminary steps. vital to land reuse.

Every brownfield must undergo characterization, which means defining the nature, location and extent of the contamination, Agrawal said.

Contaminants can linger in soil, groundwater and even in the air in the form of vapor plumes, he said.

“These things, if they haven’t already been done, have to be done before they can clean up,” he said.

Brownfields exist in all 88 counties in Ohio, and the numbers are constantly changing, said Aaron Clapper, senior director of outreach and projects at the Greater Ohio Policy Center. Some sites are being cleaned up and redeveloped, while elsewhere more businesses are closing and leaving pollution behind, he said.

The Ohio EPA has previously identified more than 2,500 brownfields in the state, both large and small sites with different types and levels of contamination, Agrawal said.

Agrawal, who has taught remediation – it’s cleaning – of contaminated sites for 26 years, said his definition of brownfields didn’t include old gas stations or dry cleaners, only industrial sites . Other definitions of brownfields include gas stations, dry cleaners and similar small businesses because of the chemicals they used and stored; but Agrawal said these can be taken care of more easily, for example by removing underground storage tanks from gas stations.

The Greater Ohio Policy Center’s estimate of 9,000 brownfield sites includes small sites like old gas stations and dry cleaners, said Jason Warner, the group’s director of strategic engagement.

Agrawal said he was aware of several dozen brownfield sites in the Dayton area, several of which were large contaminated with industrial solvents.

“Some of these sites become Superfund sites,” he said.

Superfund sites are significant hazardous waste sites identified under the Federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980. The Superfund list, which includes 53 locations in Ohio, is administered by the US EPA.

The intention of CERCLA was to get those responsible for the contamination to clean them up. But in recent years, cleanups have slowed as taxpayers have borne most of the costs.

The Dayton area has 19 Superfund sites, all separate from the state’s Brownfields Database.

What is the proposal?

State Senators Sandra Williams, D-Cleveland, and Michael Rulli, R-Salem, introduced Senate Bill 83 in February. He passed the Senate 32-0 in May. It’s now at the House Agriculture & Conservation Committee, where it had a fourth hearing on November 17.

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Initially, the bill would have set aside $ 150,000 for the Ohio EPA to conduct a collaborative study with Ohio public universities to identify brownfields statewide and estimate their cleanup cost. .

But on November 17, the sponsors amended the bill to invest this money instead in the existing targeted brownfield assessment program.

“The cost of a statewide study of all brownfields, including potential sampling, would far exceed current credit,” the bill’s sponsors wrote.

Under the amendment, the money would be used to fund more targeted assessments of brownfields at no cost to local governments, said Kayla Lewis, Williams’ senior legislative assistant. Governments could apply for the money in the form of grants.

The Ohio EPA would conduct baseline surveys of known and previously unknown sites as a first step towards the cleanup, Lewis said.

“Often local governments have to do initial assessments, and that would help them do it,” she said.

The Ohio EPA receives approximately $ 427,000 per year from the federal government to conduct Phase I assessments of brownfields, which include interviews, visual inspection, record searches and identification of areas to be sampled for contamination.

These normally cost between $ 5,500 and $ 8,000, so the extra money would allow 18-28 more assessments over the next year, the bill’s sponsors said.

Phase II assessments involve sampling material from a site to determine what contaminants are present and at what concentrations.

The state’s targeted contaminated site assessment program pays for Phase I and II site assessments, allowing them to be completed at no cost to local governments.

The bill as amended would focus funding on Phase 1 site assessments, which would be performed by environmental consultants, said James Lee, director of media relations for the Ohio EPA.

Funds allocated to the targeted brownfield assessment program cannot be used for clean-up, Lee said.

Warner has previously testified in favor of SB 83 and hopes to reiterate that support for its new form. The amendment will help communities move closer to accessing clean-up funds, he said.

“We’re just as excited for this as we are with the creation of the Brownfield Remediation Fund,” Warner said.

What is the urgency?

Local government requests for site assessments are increasing due to the imminent availability of cleanup funds, Lewis said.

The state budget passed in June included $ 350 million for a new brownfield remediation program through the Ohio Department of Development. Each county will receive at least $ 1 million, with the remaining $ 262 million available as first-come, first-served grants over the next two years. State funding can cover up to 75% of the cost of a cleanup project, but must be used within one year.

The budget also included $ 2.5 million for the Brownfields revolving loan program, which provides low-interest loans to public and private entities for demolition, clean-up and remediation.

The state has lacked dedicated brownfield cleanup funding since the end of 2013 Clean Ohio Brownfield Revitalization Grants.

Currently, state and federal brownfield inventories rely primarily on voluntary reporting through programs such as the Voluntary Action Program and the Clean Ohio Fund. The state has not maintained a mandatory brownfield list since the early 2000s, when it was successfully challenged in court, Lee said.

The state’s voluntary reporting database includes nine sites in Butler County; three each to Champaign, Clark and Greene; two in Miami, 16 sites in Montgomery County and none in Warren County.

Voluntary action program

There is no requirement for brownfield owners in Ohio to notify the state. Warner told lawmakers in June that an owner must disclose their brownfield status only in the event of a sale.

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As part of the voluntary action program, businesses and homeowners can investigate possible environmental contamination of their property and clean it up if necessary, in exchange for a state promise not to sue and insurance. that no further cleaning is required.

Sites that go through the state’s voluntary action program are sufficiently cleaned for their intended reuse, which may include commercial, recreational or residential purposes, Lee said.

Identifying brownfields and performing a thorough on-site assessment to understand the extent of the contamination will be a long-term project, but essential before seeking money for remediation, Agrawal said.

University researchers can help the state by using techniques developed over the past decade to analyze and treat sites, and by recommending cost-effective cleanup methods, he said.

The Dayton Development Coalition maintains an online inventory of over 500 potential development or reuse sites across the region, used to attract new business.

The non-profit agency uses programs offered by JobsOhio to help develop the site, Neal said. This includes JobsOhio’s Revitalization Grant and Loan Fund, which prioritizes locations where reclamation costs exceed the land value. Typical grants go up to $ 1 million and loans range from $ 500,000 to $ 5 million, according to the JobsOhio website.


307: Sites identified as brownfields in a voluntary Ohio EPA database

36: Sites Identified as Brownfields in Miami Valley Counties in an Ohio EPA Voluntary Database

9,000: Estimate of the number of old industrial sites likely to be contaminated statewide

$ 350 million: Available in a new state brownfield remediation program

$ 1 million: Available for each county through the state’s Brownfield Remediation Program

$ 262 million: Available as first-come, first-served grants over the next two years under the state’s Brownfield Remediation Program

75%: Share of the cost of a clean-up project that the brownfield remediation program will cover

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