Manage a brownfield

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A brownfield is “real property that is either contaminated or has the perception of being contaminated.”

There are specific steps to take to address a brownfield or hazardous property in your community. Click to expand each section listed below to learn about liabilities and the property assessment process.

As with other abandoned and dilapidated properties, however, it will also be useful to visit these other relevant sections on the website, which you can access by clicking here: Manage a problem property, Reuse a property, Prevent blight and Mobilize my community.

Understand Your Liabilities

epa-cerclaFirst determine if you are a protected against a liability as a potentially responsible party for contamination on the property. This is governed by CERCLA, or the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act—otherwise known as “Superfund.” Under CERCLA, which is established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), parties can be held liable for cleaning up hazardous substances at properties that they either currently own or operate or owned or operated in the past. Strict liability under CERCLA means that liability for environmental contamination may be assigned based solely on property ownership.

In order to demonstrate protection against such liability, you must establish that you are:

  1. An innocent landowner
  2. A contiguous property owner
  3. A bona fide prospective purchaser, or
  4. A government entity that acquired the property involuntarily through bankruptcy, tax delinquency, or abandonment, or by exercising power of eminent domain.

Click here to for a fact sheet that explains CERCLA more in depth, or visit the US EPA webpage to learn more about this process, including guidelines on hiring an environmental professional.

commonelementsCommon Elements Reference Sheet [click to download]
This sheet provides further guidance on the first 3 types of land owner/prospective purchaser listed above, including continuing obligations criteria, and what steps to take to maintain proof of liability.

What Environmental Assessments Do I Need?

In order to establish that you are protected against liabilities associated with a contaminated property, and to apply for an EPA brownfield grant, you must go through the All Appropriate Inquiries (AAI) process, also known as Phase One assessment. The process includes investigation by an established environmental professional, interviews of current and past owners and occupants, and review of historical records.

Click here for an overview of AAI from the US EPA, or select one of the tools below for more details.

epa-aaiAAI Fact Sheet [click to download]
This sheet defines the AAI process, specifies what activities are required, and defines who qualifies as an environmental professional.

AAI Rules and Checklist [click to download]
A written report is required to submit to the AAI process and apply for a brownfield grant. This document includes a checklist for the 4 requirements.

AAI Reporting and Suggested Content [click to download]
Although there is no specific format, length or structure for the written report, you must include the required content. This sheet offers detailed suggestions for what information to include in order to achieve a thorough investigation.


Stakeholders Guide to AAI [click to download]
The AAI rule can help ensure that environmental protection accompanies property redevelopment, and it’s useful to include the public in the process. This guide helps explain the implications of AAI. Although written after the rule was passed, it offers relevant insights.

Phase Two Assessment [Information is coming soon.]

Volunteer Remediation Program

The Volunteer Remediation Program was established through the Voluntary Remediation and Redevelopment Act to encourage companies, communities, and other stakeholders to voluntarily remediate sites and return them to productive use so that the undeveloped land can remain pristine. For more information, click here to read more.

West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Centers

For more information relating to brownfields, please refer to the West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Centers page here.