“Brownfields” Sites

“Brownfield” is a term for industrial or commercial properties that are candidates for redevelopment but sit idle due to actual or suspected contamination. Cities, development agencies, counties and other groups have identified land that would be attractive to developers if information about environmental status of these sites were available. For sites where no voluntary party has come forward, the state and federal governments have developed several initiatives that will allow interested parties to obtain environmental information about sites. The MN Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the MPCA all are involved in various efforts to assess and, if needed, clean up brownfield sites. Contact the MPCA or DEED to find out more information about brownfields initiatives.

Superfund: Sites Posing Imminent Risks, Abandoned Sites, and Enforcement Approaches

There are certain sites that are not good candidates for voluntary approaches, and the state and federal Superfund programs are designed to handle these problem sites. Among the types of sites most appropriate for Superfund:

  • Sites that pose an imminent risk to public health or the environment, where the state must act quickly to assure that the public or environment is protected;
  • Sites that pose risks, and have no responsible parties that can fund investigation and cleanup activities; and
  • Sites where responsible parties are known, but are unable or unwilling to undertake necessary investigation and cleanup actions.

Under Superfund law, responsible parties are defined, in part, as site owners, facility operators who handled wastes on the site, transporters who brought wastes to the site, and generators whose wastes end up on the site. If a risk to public health or the environment is identified, a site can be assessed by the MPCA and placed on the state Superfund list. Listed sites are eligible for use of the funds appropriated for site investigations and cleanups under the state Superfund law. The MPCA can also utilize these funds to perform removal work or emergency actions if an imminent risk to public health or the environment does exist.

If responsible parties are known but refuse to undertake cleanup, both state and federal laws can be used to enforce action. Usually, this non-cooperative approach is more expensive, timeconsuming and difficult for both the regulatory agency and the responsible party.

Other Land Contamination Programs

The state has other special programs or laws dealing with contaminated land, a few of which are listed below:

  • Contamination Tax: The Minnesota Legislature has established a contamination tax on properties affected by hazardous substances to allow for a deduction in the value of the property based on contamination present. The tax ratio varies depending on whether the tax payer is a responsible party and has a MPCA approved Response Action Plan. This law is designed to provide a tax incentive to landowners who clean up contaminated property. Contact the Minnesota Department of Revenue for more information.
  • Contamination Cleanup Grants: The Legislature provides money for Contamination Cleanup Grants for cities, housing and redevelopment authorities, economic development authorities and port authorities. To qualify for a grant, the applicant must provide the Commissioner of DEED with a site description, approved response action plan, detailed estimate of cleanup costs, appraisal of the market value of the property, description of planned land use, and explanation of how the applicant plans to pay for its share of the project. The applicant must be willing to pay at least 25 percent of the project cost. Contact DEED for more information.
  • Drycleaner Legislation: A special fund has been established to deal with land contamination from former dry-cleaning operations. Funds for investigation and cleanup activities come from annual registration fees and fees on some dry cleaning chemicals. Contact the MPCA for more information.
  • Guidance Documents and Technical Assistance: The MPCA provides guidance documents for investigation and cleanup of contaminated land, fact sheets on state and federal Superfund programs, site-specific fact sheets on some sites, and other brochures and newsletters oncontaminated property issues. Contact the MPCA for more information.