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Common Types of Brownfields and their Contaminants

Do you know if there are brownfields in your community?

If so, how can your community begin to assess, cleanup and reuse these sites?

Understanding a property’s history can help you identify past activities, use of materials, and disposal practices. This information enables you to anticipate the contaminants that could pose health and environmental risks to people to animals when exposed.

Knowing the anticipated environmental contaminants at a site can also reduce economic concerns. Without this information, liability concerns and costs of cleaning up brownfields will likely increase.

EPA's brownfield grant recipients report the types of past property uses found to be brownfields and the types of contaminants reported as part of brownfield assessment and cleanup activities. The type of cleanup to remove contaminants and reduce exposures depends on the planned reuse, law, policy and program requirements and site-specific factors such as contaminant levels and distribution. Citizen guides explain a range of cleanup approaches. Brownfield grant recipients also report where they have successfully reused brownfield sites after cleanup .

As community members become familiar with the EPA Brownfield and Land Revitalization program, they wish to reach out to their EPA Regional office, their own State, Tribal or local brownfields program if they have questions or need help.

  • The EPA funds technical assistance providers serve different regions of the country and Tribes to answer questions and help communities understand important steps in the assessment and cleaning up of brownfield properties for redevelopment and future use. TAB
  • Residents and local leaders also may wish to contact their State or Tribal brownfield experts. State report and Tribal report
  • Leaders of nearby communities with past brownfield grants or ongoing brownfield projects may help by sharing their experiences. The Brownfield grant fact sheet tool identifies past project funding. Grant Factsheet tool
  • The EPA's Cleanups In My Community (CIMC) provides a national map which highlights past and current brownfield grant recipients that reported EPA activities.

Contaminant Information

While not an exhaustive list of all contaminants, additional links summarize listed and additional contaminants and hazardous materials commonly reported at brownfields undergoing cleanup. Links to additional scientific, technical and general information about contaminants from EPA and federal sister agencies are provided below.

Arsenic [ CDC ]

Asbestos [ EPA ]

Lead [ EPA ]

Petroleum and Hydrocarbons [ EPA ]

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) [ ATSDR ]

Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)[ EPA ]

Volatile Organic Compounds [ EPA ]

Additional contaminants less commonly reported as part of brownfield cleanups include:

Cadmium [ EPA IRIS ]

Chromium [ ATSDR ]

Dioxin [ EPA ]

Mercury [ EPA ]

Pesticides [ EPA ]

The Brownfields Road Map introduces information about the types of cleanup conducted at brownfields. Information about additional more extensive cleanup conducted as part of Superfund and other contaminated land remediation can be found at the Contaminated Site Cleanup Information (CLU-IN) site. The site also provides detail about emerging contaminants, contaminated site cleanup practices and a range of site assessment and characterization methods, tools and remediation technologies.