Basic Information On Petroleum Brownfields
A brownfield is a property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. A petroleum brownfield is a type of brownfield where the contaminant is petroleum.
Of the estimated 450,000 brownfield sites in the U.S., approximately one-half are thought to be impacted by petroleum, much of it from leaking underground storage tanks (USTs) at old gas stations. These sites blight the surrounding neighborhoods and threaten human health and the environment. Petroleum can contaminate groundwater, the source of drinking water for nearly half of all Americans.
Petroleum contamination can be released from any of a number of sources, including USTs, aboveground storage tanks, refineries, or pipelines at businesses, offices, terminals, marinas, and public buildings.
EPA's Office of Underground Storage Tanks (OUST) is responsible for promoting the cleanup of leaking underground storage tank sites. EPA's underground storage tank web area contains information about cleaning up petroleum-contaminated sites. Once a site is cleaned up, it can be reused and again provide new businesses, jobs, and tax revenue or other amenities for the community, such as parks and recreation, greenspace or other reuses.
There are basically four steps in the petroleum brownfield cleanup and reuse process:
- Identifying a site(s).
- Planning the assessment, cleanup and reuse process for the site(s), including forming partnership(s), identifying site reuse options, and organizing resources.
- Cleaning up the site(s).
- Redeveloping the site(s).
For a basic introduction to the steps involved in assessing and cleaning up contaminated sites, see the Toolbox for Cleanup and Redevelopment of Contaminated Sites in Small Cities and Rural Communities (PDF) (29 pp, 3.9MB, About PDF), which was published by the Association of State and Territorial Solid Waste Management Officials. This same toolbox document has been customized by several states to reflect their state brownfields requirements and re-issued as their state's own version of the toolbox. Some customized toolboxes include:
- Brownfields Redevelopment Toolbox: A Guide to Assist Rural Communities in Redeveloping Arizona's Brownfields (PDF) (44 pp, 7.4MB, About PDF)
- Arkansas Brownfields Program: Brownfields Toolbox (PDF) (41 pp, 1.2MB, About PDF)
- Brownfields Redevelopment Toolbox Enabling Brownfields Cleanup and Redevelopment in Kansas Communities (PDF) (50 pp, 1.4MB, About PDF)
- Brownfield Redevelopment Toolbox: A Guide to Assist Communities in Redeveloping New York State's Brownfields (PDF) (45 pp, 1.2MB, About PDF)
The assessment and cleanup process for petroleum sites varies by state. For petroleum brownfield site cleanups, the state petroleum authority is often the first place to seek information and assistance, and states maintain websites with information. To learn about petroleum sites and cleanups in a specific state, see state regulatory authorities.
The links below provide additional information about petroleum brownfields:
- EPA Brownfields And Land Revitalization
Provides basic information about EPA's Brownfields and Land Revitalization programs.
- Sustainability And Petroleum Brownfields
Since its inception in 1995, EPA's Brownfields Program has grown into a results-oriented program that has changed the way contaminated property is perceived, addressed, and managed. Initially, EPA provided small amounts of seed money to local governments that launched hundreds of two-year brownfield pilot projects.
Petroleum-contaminated sites were not eligible for traditional EPA Brownfields funding. Therefore, in 2000, in order to encourage the reuse of abandoned properties contaminated with petroleum from underground storage tanks, EPA's Office of Underground Storage Tanks created the USTfields Initiative. A total of 50 pilot projects were awarded up to $100,000 each to assess, clean up, and ready for reuse high-priority petroleum-impacted sites. Many of the USTfields pilots resulted in cleaned up and revitalized old gas station sites, and others are ongoing.
Through passage of the Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act in 2002, brownfields policies that EPA had developed over the years were passed into law. A key provision of the law allocates 25 percent of EPA Brownfields funding each year to assess, clean up, and ready for reuse relatively low-risk petroleum brownfield sites. Each year EPA awards Brownfields grants to local governments, states, tribes, and non-profit organizations to assess and clean up brownfields, including those impacted by petroleum contamination. Since 2003, when petroleum-contaminated sites first became eligible for Brownfields grants, EPA has awarded close to $23 million annually for the assessment and cleanup of petroleum sites. For additional information on EPA's petroleum brownfields awards, see EPA Grants For Petroleum Brownfield Properties, which provides lists of petroleum brownfields grant recipients by year.
EPA's Office of Underground Storage Tanks and Office of Brownfields and Land Revitalization developed petroleum brownfields action plans to promote cleaning up and reusing petroleum-contaminated sites.
To learn more about petroleum brownfield sites, see Identifying Petroleum Sites.