As we prepare for Oregon’s Brownfields and Infrastructure Summit on Oct. 5 and 6, we’re taking a look back at some of the work carried out by the Department of Environmental Quality. The Northwest Environmental Business Council, summit host, invited nearly a dozen DEQ staff to speak at the event. “The summit brings together those working to make contaminated properties economically viable for reuse and demonstrate the interconnectedness of basic infrastructure with community and economic development,” NEBC.
What is a Brownfield?
Brownfields are properties that are not being used to their full potential because of known or suspected environmental pollution. Brownfields are often left idle due to fears about liability and expense of assessment and cleanup.
Cleaning up and reinvesting in Brownfields protects the environment, reduces blight and brings valuable property back to use. It can also provide services, such as industrial or commercial development, house or open spaces for playing fields and parks.
Brownfield redevelopment success stories
In the City of Astoria, Oregon sits one of DEQ’s many Brownfield redevelopment success stories. The Garden of Surging Waves, a public park, took the place of part of an abandoned city block known as Heritage Square. The Garden honors Chinese immigrants who worked in the canneries and other industries in the early 1900s.
Thanks to a $400,000 Brownfields grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2012, the City of Astoria had funds to pay for environmental assessment and remediation/cleanup of the Heritage Square block.
The City worked with DEQ and a consultant on plans to collect soil and groundwater samples to understand the extent of contamination.
The property had an interesting past. It was once the home of an automobile repair garage and paint shop, a used car sales business, a dry cleaning establishment, a newspaper printing company, and a Safeway grocery store. The grocery store was demolished in 2005 and five years later the remains caved 10 feet below street level.
Previous uses left behind soil and groundwater contamination. Soil and testing showed that these past uses resulted in releases of petroleum and solvents to the soil and groundwater beneath the Heritage Square block and adjacent streets.
After the remediation/cleanup, the new community gathering space opened on May 17, 2014. The Garden of Surging Waves is phase 1 of the project. Additional cleanup is needed prior to development of the remainder of the site, which is expected to be public space.
–Jennifer K. Flynt, public affairs specialist