Frequently Asked Questions

What is a brownfield?

Brownfields are "real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant." Brownfields blight communities across the country, inhibiting economic development and contaminating the environment. Brownfield sites include unproductive and abandoned textile mills, service stations, industrial facilities, and chemical processing plants. By cleaning up these properties, local governments can protect the environment, spur economic growth, and create jobs.

Do we have brownfields in Wyandotte County?

Yes, and due to fear of the unknown, buyers, lenders and developers pass over  abandon, under used or blighted properties for those appearing less “risky.” Merely the fear of environmental contamination and regulatory intervention has been enough to hinder or stop redevelopment of these once vital community areas.

How can the Unified Government’s Brownfield Program assist me?

Brownfields Program provides technical and financial assistance to private businesses and landowners, nonprofit organizations, and municipalities. Financial assistance can include full funding of Phase I ESA, partial and/or substantial funding of Phase II ESA, and assistance with cleanup planning.

Contact Economic Development at (913) 573-5743, or download a Site Nomination Application(PDF, 90KB) .

How can I get involved?

There are four ways to get involved with this initiative:

  1. Identify Sites - Tell the City of any brownfield sites in the area you know about;
  2. Help Prioritize Sites - Let the City know what brownfield sites you feel are most important for the community to redevelop;
  3. Assist in Planning - Share your vision for what should happen at the high-priority sites; and
  4. Stay Informed - Keep up to date on project activities and attending scheduled community meetings.

What is the purpose of this grant project?

The purpose of this grant is to assess the level and nature of environmental contamination at selected brownfield sites and conduct planning for the cleanup and reuse of the properties. By assessing contaminated properties in Wyandotte County, the UG is quantifying the risks involved in redeveloping the properties to encourage property owners and developers to cleanup the sites and put them back into productive use.

Will the grant pay for the cleanup of the sites?

This grant will not pay for the actual cleanup and redevelopment of the site. The EPA offers separate cleanup grants to assist with cleanup activities, property owners and developers are often eager to invest in the redevelopment activities in order to put the site back into productive use.

How will the community benefit from the redevelopment of these properties?

The cleanup and redevelopment of brownfield sites create productive properties, removes blight, protects the environment and often leads to the creation of new jobs.

What is a Brownfields Assessment Project?

More than a thousand brownfields assessment projects are across the country with each funded initially up to $200,000 over a (3) year period by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The funds are to be used to bring together property owners, community groups, investors, lenders, developers, and other affected parties to address environmental site assessment and cleanup planning issues.

What is the EPA's involvement?

The Brownfield Assessment Project is not a regulatory program. These projects are a mechanism/tool to promote economic development. EPA involvement is typically limited to review of work plans and general program oversight.

What does the program offer property owners?

The program facilitates the redevelopment of properties by conducting environmental site assessments and identifying/removing the environmental risk/uncertainty associated with the property. With the funds from the EPA, the UG will now be able to pay for environmental site assessment activities on properties where the current owner or prospective purchaser is unwilling and/or unable.

Participation in the program in not mandatory; that is, if the UG identifies your property as a potential Brownfield site you do not have to participate. Program participation is particularly helpful where a property is perceived to have an environmental problem, although one may not actually exist.

Why would property owners want to participate?

Participation in a brownfields project brings resources to the property owners and prospective purchasers that facilitate re-development. If your property is selected, project-provided services might include:

  1. All Appropriate Inquiries (Phase I and Phase II Environmental Assessments) and;
  2. Clean-up/redevelopment Planning.

The project can help clarify environmental concerns and plan redevelopment to address real or perceived environmental issues.

What are All Appropriate Inquiries?

EPA’s definition of All Appropriate Inquiries is “the process of evaluating a property's environmental conditions and assessing potential liability for any contamination.” All Appropriate Inquiries requirements are applicable to any party who may potentially claim protection from CERCLA (also known as Superfund) liability as an innocent landowner, a bona fide prospective purchaser, or a contiguous property owner.

Parties receiving grants under the EPA's Brownfields Grant program to assess and characterize properties must comply with the All Appropriate Inquiries standards. Evaluations for these standards must be conducted or updated within (1) year prior to the date of acquisition of a property. If these evaluations are conducted more than (180) days prior to the acquisition date, certain aspects of the inquiries must be updated.

Parties must comply with the requirements of the All Appropriate Inquiries Final Rule, or follow the standards set forth in the ASTM E1527-05 Phase I Environmental Site Assessment Process.

What is a Phase I and Phase II Environmental Site Assessment?

The goal for a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment is to make an “appropriate inquiry into previous ownership and use of the property consistent with good commercial or customary practice.”

Phase I Environmental Site Assessment's are performed by the current owner or prospective purchaser. These are conducted according to guidelines established in the American Society for Testing & Materials (ASTM), Standard Practice for Environmental Site Assessment (E 1527), and EPA’s All Appropriate Inquiries Rule. These do not include sampling or chemical analysis of soil, groundwater or other media. This provides the necessary information needed to determine if cleanup activities are warranted on the property.

The (4) primary components:

  1. Records Review,
  2. Site Reconnaissance,
  3. Interviews, and;
  4. Report Preparation

This report also includes a statement as evidence of recognized environmental conditions.

Phase II Environmental Site Assessments include site-specific sampling and chemical analyses to characterize the occurrence, distribution, nature and extent of hazardous compounds in soil and groundwater at a property. These provide the necessary information needed to determine if cleanup activities are warranted on the property. Where concerns are identified, recommendations for this activity are included in the report.

If I am a property owner and I participate what happens if environmental contamination is found?

If your property has environmental contamination and is selected by the UG to be an upcoming brownfields assessment site, this provides you one of the best possible working scenarios with the EPA.

The EPA Brownfields Assessment Program is not a regulatory program.

If environmental contamination is found, the project may assist with development of cleanup and redevelopment plans. Parties who are deemed responsible for cleanup activities and are voluntarily participating in the EPA Brownfield Program are not required to complete the cleanup activities as part of the program. In rare cases, where contamination is deemed to be an imminent threat to human health and the environment, then EPA may require immediate action to address the contamination.

Who will pay for the cleanup if contamination is found?

EPA does not offer grant funds to private property owners; they only provide grants to local governments and non-profit organizations. However, EPA does offer low interest loans to private property owners for the cleanup of contamination. Unless the property is owned by a local government or non-profit organization, the private sector (property owner) typically takes the lead and is responsible for most environmental cleanup projects. The existing brownfields project cannot pay for cleanup; the funds can only be used for environmental site assessments and cleanup/redevelopment planning.

One of the primary goals of the program is to assist in determining if a problem exists, what level of cleanup is needed and how site redevelopment impacts cleanup activities at the site.

What activities are included in cleanup/redevelopment planning?

The primary goal for this effort will be to identify potentially applicable cleanup alternatives and to estimate the nature, extent, duration, and cost of implementing selected cleanup alternatives at the site. This task will provide property owners and prospective purchasers with a general description of potential cleanup alternatives and approximate cost to complete these activities. In addition, cleanup decisions are often times based on the proposed end use of the site (residential, commercial) and how the proposed redevelopment (buildings, parking lots) limits access to onsite contamination. It is not uncommon for cleanup costs to be significantly reduced due to the proposed redevelopment.

What if redevelopment opportunities are not identified?

Specific redevelopment opportunities do not need to be spelled out in detail before some work is performed. A general plan for generating redevelopment opportunities is typically needed to obtain EPA approval to spend grant funds on assessment work. In addition, the UG will seek to prioritize sites for funding under this project, based on the sites redevelopment potential and plans.