Simply put, brownfields are sites where previous industry or other activity has contaminated the property, making redevelopment more challenging than with previously unused real estate.
For example, a former site of a leather tannery, textile mill or an illegal dump site could be considered a brownfield because of the presence of hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants. In many cases, these sites would not be attractive for redevelopment due to the cost of cleaning up these contaminants. It is currently estimated that there are more than 450,000 brownfields in the United States.
However, in 1995, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), started its Brownfields Program to make it easier and more financially possible to put these old sites back to use creating jobs. This will encourage states, local communities and other interested parties to assess, clean up and redevelop brownfields and return them to clean, sustainable and beneficial uses. Today the program provides grants that support the revitalization of these areas by funding environmental assessment, cleanup and job training activities.
Since its inception, the U.S. EPA Brownfields Program has provided more than $6.5 billion in brownfield cleanup and redevelopment funding, and has resulted in creation of an estimated 25,000 jobs.