About Brownfields

Abandoned Brownfields Opportunity in Cape Charles, VA

  • Do the words "brownfield" and "opportunity" go together? What are brownfields?
  • Where are brownfields?
  • Who owns brownfields?
  • How do brownfields affect communities?
  • How does brownfield redevelopment help communities?
  • What are the benefits to a participant?
  • What about liability?
  • What about the cost to assess the property?
  • What if remediation is necessary?

Do the words "brownfield" and "opportunity" go together? In Virginia, the answer is yes. Nationally and locally, brownfields are being recognized like never before as excellent opportunities to rehabilitate existing sites into productive use. DEQ recognizes the important role our Agency plays in helping facilitate brownfield redevelopment projects and help level the playing field between brownfield and greenfield sites. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality is actively assisting communities and businesses in these worthwhile and beneficial ventures through financial and technical assistance, liability protection, reasonable cleanup objectives, and a program tailored to you, the customer. Not only are brownfield redevelopment opportunities good for Virginia's environment, they're smart business.

What are brownfields? Brownfields are idled, underutilized, or abandoned industrial or commercial properties where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived environmental contamination. Examples include factories, railyards, landfills, dry cleaners, etc.

Where are brownfields? While the location of many of Virginia's brownfield sites are unknown, they are believed to be located throughout the Commonwealth. Although many such sites are typically located in or near urban areas, brownfields are often times located in rural areas as well. DEQ plans to develop a working data base of available sites as they become available for redevelopment.

Who owns brownfields? Private citizens, companies, land trusts, banks, local governments, and others.

How do brownfields affect communities? The ripple effect of brownfield sites on communities include potential environmental impacts, lost employment opportunities, reduced tax revenues, impacts on support businesses, and tarnished community image.

How does brownfield redevelopment help communities? Communities benefit greatly from brownfield redevelopment projects through the assessment and possible clean up of impacted natural resources, increased employment opportunities, increased tax revenues, increase in surrounding property values, reduced green space development, community pride, and improved community potential.

What are the benefits to a participant? Many brownfield participants recognize the inherent benefits of reusing existing sites and/or properties. Often times the sites are located on or near rail lines and major transportation routes. The existing buildings, infrastructure, and utilities can often accommodate a quicker start up schedule and significantly lessens the need for permits and inspections associated with the construction of a new facility. Brownfield participants often time reap the benefits and rewards in good public relations and are sometimes eligible for special tax incentives offered by the host community. The positive public relations associated with brownfield redevelopment projects are a benefit noted by many participants.

What about liability? Liability for pre-existing contamination has historically been a leading deterrent to brownfield development activities. DEQ provides immunity to future state regulatory compliance action through our Voluntary Remediation Program via a "certificate of completion" which "runs with the land". To provide further liability comfort, DEQ and EPA have executed a Memorandum of Agreement with EPA, which will provide federal concurrence with DEQ's decisions on site requirements.

What about the cost to assess the property? Currently, DEQ is offering site screening services made available through a Cooperative Agreement with EPA. This service is free and can be easily applied for. The free service is available to local communities, Industrial Development Authorities, and economic development agencies and can be applied to private industry provided they allow the local public entity to apply for the funds on their behalf.

What if remediation is necessary? Virginia's Voluntary Remediation Program (VRP) is a non-enforcement based cleanup program that provides a formal mechanism for DEQ oversight while providing flexibility to the participant. The VRP utilizes a risk-based approach that provides reasonable clean up goals and allows for institutional and engineering controls, as well as deed restrictions, to be considered as remediation. Participants of the VRP can withdrawal any time provided they notify DEQ in writing and there is no time limit on the duration of clean up.

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Virginia Department of
Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 1105
Richmond, VA 23218
(804) 698-4000


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