A brownfield is a property of which the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. It is estimated that there are more than 450,000 brownfields in the United States.
Cleaning up and reinvesting in brownfield properties increases local tax bases, facilitates job growth, utilizes existing infrastructure, takes development pressures off of undeveloped, open land, and both improves and protects the environment.
Initially, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provided small amounts of seed money to local governments that launched hundreds of two-year brownfield “pilot” projects. Through passage of the Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act, effective polices that EPA had developed over the years were passed into law. The Brownfields Law expanded EPA’s assistance by providing new tools for the public and private sectors to promote sustainable brownfields cleanup and reuse.
Virgin Islands Initiative
The Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) is developing a Voluntary Response Program (VRP) under a cooperative agreement with EPA to spur cleanup of brownfield sites in the Virgin islands. The activities funded under this agreement include: 1) forming a technical committee to guide the development of the VCP; 2) hiring consulting firms to assist DPNR in developing VCP strategies; and 3) training personnel on relevant aspects of the VCP and site inventory procedures.
The Virgin Islands (VI) have been using Section 128(a) Response Program funding to establish its Voluntary Cleanup Program (VCP). In August 2008 the program promulgated the VI Brownfields Law. In July of 2010 the VI DPNR began procedures to promulgate rules and regulations pursuant to the Brownfield Revitalization and Environmental Restoration Act of 2008 for the establishment of a VCP. Hearings on the proposed VCP Rules and Regulations were held in August 2010 on all three islands (St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas). These rules and regulations are for the purpose of establishing cleanup standards that are protective of human health and the environment for voluntary cleanup activities.
Twenty phase I site assessments have been conducted utilizing the 128(a) funding throughout the Territory. Once these properties are designated brownfields sites the VCP’s design aims to return them to useable condition. The program host annual forums to keep the public and stakeholder informed of program progress. The activities of the VCP will ultimately help preserve the Territory’s greenfields.
How do we work together to build a better, stronger Virgin Islands? Dr. Clanicia Pelle from the VI Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) and Schenine Mitchell from the U.S. EPA grapple with this question on a daily basis. I took some time to speak with these experienced practitioners to learn more about the VI’s unique redevelopment challenges, the strides they’ve made thus far, and what’s next in land reuse and community development.
Sites under consideration:
VI Brownfields Sites