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Brownfields are underutilized properties where reuse is hindered by the actual or suspected presence of pollution. Cleanup and redevelopment of these sites benefits communities by removing the threats to human health and the environment, stimulating economic growth, and revitalizing neighborhoods. Urban infill brownfield redevelopment in neighborhoods with existing public infrastructure eliminates neighborhood blight and improves the community’s image and long term sustainability. Infill development also increases property values, creates a potential for increased jobs, adds to local tax revenues and improves public health.
Goals of the Water Board Brownfields Program
- Expedite and facilitate brownfields’ cleanups and closures by streamlining site assessment, remediation, monitoring, and closure requirements and procedures within the water boards’ cleanup programs
- Preserve open space and green fields
- Protect groundwater and surface water resources, safeguard public health, and promote environmental justice
California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA) Brownfields Program
Cal/EPA’s regulatory boards and departments, including the State Water Resources Control Board (Water Board), the Regional Water Quality Control Boards (RWQCBs), and the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), play an essential role in cleaning up polluted sites to protect public health and the environment.
In order to improve coordination of oversight activities at brownfields sites in California, DTSC, the Water Board, and the RWQCBs agreed to a Brownfield Memorandum of Agreement (MOA). The MOA limits oversight of a brownfields site to one agency, establishes procedures and guidelines for identifying the lead agency, calls for a single uniform site assessment procedure, requires all cleanups to address the requirements of the agencies, defines roles and responsibilities, provides for ample opportunity for public involvement, commits agencies to review timeframes, and commits agencies to coordinate and communicate on brownfields issues.
To access the application to request agency oversight, refer to DTSC's Brownfields webpage.
Water Board Cleanup Programs
Site cleanup responsibilities for brownfields primarily reside within four main programs at the Water Board: the Underground Storage Tank Program, the Site Cleanup Program, the Department of Defense Program and the Land Disposal Program. These Water Board cleanup programs are charged with ensuring sites are remediated to protect, restore, and enhance California’s surface and groundwater, returning waters to their beneficial use.
Water Board and RWQCBs Contact List
Regional Board staff can answer your questions concerning local brownfields properties:
»» See Brownfields Program Contacts - State Water Board and RWQCBs
Various grant and loan programs are available to help assess and/or clean up brownfields sites in California:
- Water Board Underground Storage Tank Cleanup Fund (USTCF)
- Water Board Orphan Site Cleanup Fund (OSCF) Program
- California Pollution Control Financing Authority (CPCFA)
- DTSC Loans and Grants
- United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) Grants Funding and Assistance Programs
For more information on potential funding sources for brownfields sites, refer to the Center for Creative Land Recycling’s funding list. Detailed information is provided on the various state and federal brownfields funding sources for assessment, cleanup, and redevelopment work.
Applicable Brownfields Legislation
- California Land Environmental Restoration and Reuse Act
- California Land Reuse and Revitalization Act of 2004
- Polanco Redevelopment Act
- Site Designation Committee
Geotracker is a map-based information database that provides online access to environmental data for sites (open or closed) under the Water Boards’ oversight. Envirostor is a similar database for sites under DTSC oversight.