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Brownfields Frequently Asked Questions

Where do Brownfields contaminants come from?

Sometimes when factories or businesses leave a location, they may leave behind contaminants in pipes, barrels or underground oil tanks. These chemicals can leak (or leach) into the ground and contaminate the soil, groundwater and river water.

Where do Brownfields exist?

Brownfields exist everywhere. Brownfields can exist in any populated area, including rural and suburban areas, industrial and commercial areas, residential areas, or green spaces and parks.

What does the assessment consist of?

A Phase I Environmental Site Assessment is a preliminary examination of a site to determine the potential for contamination. It includes a review of existing and historical land uses and records, as well as a visual inspection of the property for contamination or asbestos. Based on these findings, some sites need a Phase II assessment, which includes the actual collection of samples for chemical analysis. There are also Phase III assessments for clean-up and redevelopment planning, which can include Municipal Setting Designations (MSDs), the TCEQ Voluntary Cleanup Program (VCP) and the TCEQ Innocent Owner/Operator Program (IOP). Finally, remediation, waste disposal, and site reconstruction/restoration make a contaminated site ready for reuse.

How are samples collected?

To do Phase II Environmental Site Assessments, scientists dig holes (or test wells) into the ground and take samples of the soil and water on the site. This helps property owners understand the nature and extent of contamination.

2 guys digging a hole into the ground

What are the TCEQ Voluntary Cleanup (VCP) and Innocent Owner/Operator (IOP) Programs?

The Texas IOP provides a certificate to an innocent owner or operator if their property is contaminated as a result of a release or migration of contaminants from a source or sources not located on the property, and they did not cause or contribute to the source or sources of contamination. The Texas VCP provides administrative, technical, and legal incentives to encourage the cleanup of contaminated sites in Texas.

What is a Municipal Setting Designation (MSD)?

An MSD is an official state designation given to property within a municipality or its extraterritorial jurisdiction that certifies that designated groundwater at the property is not used as potable water, and is prohibited from future use as potable water because that groundwater is contaminated in excess of the applicable potable-water protective concentration level. As part of a Phase III assessment, the City can assist in obtaining this designation. Please visit the Municipal Setting Designation webpage for more information.

US Environmental Protection Agency’s Brownfields website.