Located in industrial zones in cities, or along railroad lines in suburbs and rural communities, brownfields are those sites where the factories, train yards, and commercial structures that were the economic lifeblood of the American economy were located. Now, the estimated 100,000 to 500,000 brownfields in the United States are abandoned or underutilized, and many are contaminated, or perceived to be so. Physical deterioration of the brownfields and crime are major causes of decline in many neighborhoods. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency began a brownfields redevelopment program during the mid-1990s, giving $200,000 grants to 300 cities and other jurisdictions. More than a dozen U.S. government agencies have begun providing coordinated assistance and funding in support of brownfields redevelopment.
The extent of risk to the public posed by environmental contamination of brownfields is a major concern. Depending upon the amount and type of contamination, soil may be removed, a concrete or other impermeable layer placed on top of the land, and restrictions placed on future use of the land. Many brownfield sites are located in poverty-stricken minority neighborhoods, and brownfields redevelopment is an important issue in relation to environmental justice policies. Brownfields contrast with greenfields, which are fields and lots that were never developed, or only lightly developed. Greenfields are generally believed, sometimes incorrectly, not to be contaminated.
MICHAEL R. GREENBERG
Dennison, M. (1998). Brownfields Redevelopment. Rockville, MD: Government Institute.
Simons, R. (1998). Turning Brownfields into Greenbacks: Redeveloping and Refinancing Contaminated Urban Real Estate. Washington, DC: Urban Land Institute.