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Featured Fact Sheet
Featured Fact Sheet

PLACES Program Helps Communities Onto the Path of Sustainability (PDF) (2 pp, 212 KB) (EPA/600/F-11/005) April 2011

Chemicals Assessment


Communities must make wise land use choices that preserve ecosystems and the services they provide. Ecosystem services are the many life-sustaining benefits we receive from nature—clean air and water, fertile soil for crop production, pollination, and flood control. These ecosystem services are important to our health, well-being and economy. Yet these resources are limited and often taken for granted as being free.

EPA land researchers help communities develop plans for future land use. They also help communities deal with the consequences of past land use decisions, such as brownfields, Superfund sites, and historical contamination caused by hazardous waste from industries and mining.

Environmental Issue or Problem

Because development usually involves many small land use changes by individuals over time, not guided by a larger sustainable plan, essential ecosystem services are being degraded or lost. Brownfields and Superfund sites with hazardous waste left from previous land use decisions, often occupy prime real estate. EPA estimates that there are 450,000 abandoned and polluted waste sites nationwide. It is vital to encourage and promote the revitalization of these lands. To do so in a sustainable way ensures that existing social, economic and environmental systems are maintained and even improved for present and future generations.

Research Approach

Sustainable communities research addresses remediation, redevelopment, and revitalization. EPA is developing tools, approaches, methods, and technologies that will help recover contaminated land. Redevelopment boosts local economies and helps create jobs while protecting public health. Land researchers network with other EPA programs, government agencies, and private firms to identify, cleanup, and manage risk at contaminated sites.

EPA researchers currently help communities prepare development plans. These plans help to guide sustainable land use decisions that will protect ecosystem services and offer a good future quality of life. These master plans offer a number of alternative strategies that consider the natural, social, and economic needs of the community and its citizens.


EPA researchers provide tools and technical support for remediation, renovation, and revitalization of contaminated land. EPA projects include:

  • Alternative Futures Analysis (AFA) is an environmental evaluation method for helping communities make land and water use decisions.
  • Decision analysis (DA) is one of the tools under development as part of sustainable communities research. DA provides land and resource planners with a rigorous process that enables them to restore, protect, or maintain the health and sustainability of human and ecological communities. DA is a formalized common sense approach for big issues. The DA process uses outputs of EPA land management researchers' innovative research in waste, materials, and land management as inputs to the decision analysis models. This process incorporates input from many stakeholders. The outputs of the work of EPA researchers are combined with the expertise of decision analysts, land use planners, social scientists, systems engineers, ecologists, and economists to help communities to solve local and regional land use problems.
  • Planning Land and Communities to be Environmentally Sustainable (PLACES): is an EPA program that encourages and allows communities to develop strategic plans that will sustain ecosystems that are needed to protect the environment and human health. Stella, Missouri has completed a successful pilot.
  • SMARTe: is a decision support tool which tells users about the revitalization process, shows them how to overcome obstacles, and helps with reuse options selection.


  • EPA: Office of Policy, Economics, and Innovation (OPEI); Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation (OSRTI); Office of Brownfields, Cleanup, and Redevelopment (OBCR); OEI; Ecosystem Services Research Program; ORD's Sustainable Technology Division, all EPA regions
  • State Agencies: State Departments of Health and Environmental Protection; Interstate Technology and Regulatory Council (ITRC); Oregon; Colorado
  • Other Federal Agencies: U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE), Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), U.S. Forest Service (USFS), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
  • Academia: Carnegie Mellon University, Colorado School of Mines
  • Business/Industry: EnviMSI, Prima, Neptune and Company, URS Corp.
  • Other: Stella, Missouri; German Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF); Abandoned Mine Lands Team; National Mining Team; Engineering Forum

Selected Publications

Ecosystem Services Decision Support: A Living Database of Existing Tools, Approaches, and Techniques for Supporting Decisions Related to Ecosystem Services (EPA/600/R-09/102) 2009

Parker, R.A. (2009). “Regulatory Aspects of Implementing Electrokinetic Remediation.” Chapter 28 in Electrochemical Remediation of Polluted Soils, Sediments, and Groundwater. Edited by K.R. Reddy and C. Cameselle. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, NJ. p. 589–606

Vega, A., R. Argus, T. Stockton, P. Black, K. Black, and N. Stiber. (2009). “SMARTe: An MCDA Approach to Revitalize Communities and Restore the Environment.” Chapter 9 in Decision Support Systems for Risk-Based Management Of Contaminated Sites. Edited by A. Marcomini, G. W. Suter II, and A. Critto. Springer Science + Business Media, LLC, New York, NY. p. 179-204

U.S. EPA Office of Research and Development, Ecosystem Services Research Program (ESRP), Decision Support Framework (DSF) Team, Research Team Implementation Plan (EPA/600/R-09/104) September 2009

Hansen, V. E. (2007). “Starting Small in Stella: Learning How to Plan for Sustainability.” Presentation, Forum on the Application of Sustainability Theory to Urban Development Practice, College of Design, Art, Architecture, and Planning, University of Cincinnati. August.


Roger Yeardley, Technology Transfer Specialist
U.S. EPA National Risk Management Research Laboratory
Land Remediation and Pollution Control Division
26 W. Martin Luther King Dr.
Mail Code: 190
Cincinnati, OH 45268

Risk Mangement Research | Air and Climate Change Research | Water Research | Ecosystems Restoration Research | Land Risk Management Research | Technology: Sustainable Technologies Research, Environmental Technology Verification Program (ETV), and Technology Assessments

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