Brownfields Overview

Since 1995, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Brownfields and Land Revitalization Program has supported the public in transforming contaminated properties into community assets. As stated on EPA’s website, “the program is designed to empower states, tribes, communities, and other stakeholders to work together to prevent, assess, safely clean up, and sustainably reuse brownfields.”  SMPDC has been awarded over $14 million in EPA Brownfields Grants since 2004, which has gone directly into supporting community development in Southern Maine.


What is a Brownfields site?

The EPA defines Brownfield sites as “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.”


Is your site a Brownfields property?  Below are examples of either required or desirable qualities for Brownfields sites entering SMPDC’s program:

    • The site has either real or perceived environmental contamination.
    • The site is not listed on the National Priorities List (Superfund sites).
    • The site that was once developed but is now either underutilized or abandoned.
    • A party is interested in redeveloping the site, and:
      •  A redevelopment plan is available;
      • The proposed redevelopment will benefit underserved communities; and/or
      • The developer has applied for or secured funding from other sources, such as CDBG, HUD, municipal, state, or private funds.

Other funding available through SMPDC is detailed here:


Helpful EPA Fact Sheets:


The Brownfields Process: Three Steps

Brownfields is sometimes considered a three-step process.  These steps precede redevelopment and identify potential funding sources.  Although redevelopment of a Brownfield occurs after site cleanup, plans for reuse are generally produced earlier during the process.


1. Phase I ESA

An environmental due diligence report that documents the history and current status of a property and identifies potential environmental concerns. The Phase I ESA also helps determine the parties that are potentially liable for the contamination present at site. This report must be prepared in accordance with the appropriate standards and regulations to be considered valid under the Brownfields Program. The Phase I ESA must be conducted within 180 days prior to acquisition of a property.


2. Phase II ESA

If the Phase I ESA determines that contamination is known or suspected to be present at the property, a Phase II ESA will be completed.  A scope of work for the Phase II ESA investigation is developed prior to execution.  Typically, soil, groundwater, and/or air samples are collected at the site and analyzed for suspected contaminants.  A Hazardous Building Material Survey may also be conducted at this step, which includes the collection and analysis of paint samples, suspect asbestos materials, and other building materials.  The data is reviewed to determine the nature and extent of contamination, if present.  The Phase II ESA is instrumental in developing cleanup plans for the property.


3. Cleanup/Remediation

If contamination is found in the samples collected during Phase II ESA, cleanup/remediation may be required to remove the contaminants prior to redevelopment.  A cleanup plan must be developed, which includes a presentation of various cleanup options and selection of the most feasible and cost-effective option.  In the Brownfields Program, this plan is called an Analysis of Brownfields Cleanup Alternatives (ABCA).  Following regulatory review and approval of the ABCA, the cleanup activities may begin.

Funding available for cleanup/remediation through SMPDC’s program includes:

  • Loans to for-profits, non-profits, or municipalities (typically at competitive rates)
  • Grants to municipalities or non-profits only


Helpful EPA Fact Sheets: