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Getting Started with Superfund Redevelopment

Antioch, Illinois

Before: A 121-acre municipal, commercial, and industrial waste landfill at the H.O.D. Landfill site (PDF) (2 pp, 303K, About PDF).

After: The former landfill provides recreational fields on the former capped area, seasonal wetlands, and an innovative gas-to-energy project.

Becoming involved in the redevelopment of a Superfund site requires different considerations than other contaminated sites (e.g., brownfields). However, successful Superfund site redevelopment projects from around the country demonstrate that reusing Superfund sites can occur despite barriers and challenges.

The steps below highlight key issues and considerations to think about while planning and undertaking the redevelopment of a site. However, the process may vary from the following steps depending upon the specific characteristics of the site you are interested in redeveloping. After reviewing the steps, you can send additional questions to the Superfund Redevelopment Coordinator in Region 5.

Step 1: Gather Information about the Site or Property and Contact the Owner(s)

You may need to gather additional information about the site to understand its redevelopment potential and to inform discussions with EPA in the future. For instance, it will be helpful to know more about who owns the site, who is leading the site’s cleanup, and progress made in cleaning up the site. A related question centers on the willingness of a current property owner or owners to sell their property for redevelopment purposes.

Step 2: Review Associated Legal Issues and Obtain Liability Clarification and Assurances

The cleanup of sites and the clarification of environmental cleanup liability are the foundation for redeveloping Superfund sites. There are complex legal issues associated with reuse of all contaminated properties. In most cases, these issues are surmountable and the property can be bought and reused with properly managed liability protections.

Legal issues related to Superfund site redevelopment include:

EPA also has many redevelopment services and tools available to provide more certainty to parties interested in purchasing or reusing Superfund sites.

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Step 3: Consider Future Use Possibilities of the Site

While you may have an idea of how you would like to reuse the site, you may also want to review examples of other Superfund sites that have successfully been reused both in Region 5 and nationally.

In addition, EPA makes available a limited number of technical reports that explain special issues regarding the redevelopment of Superfund sites for specific uses.

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Step 4: Identify Potential Barriers to Reuse

Another step in successfully redeveloping a site is to understand whether site-related barriers may prevent certain types of development activity. For instance, many sites are subject to institutional controls, such as restrictive covenants, which frequently restrict residential uses. In other instances, the design of a physical remedy, such as a landfill cap, may prohibit the placement of all or certain types of structures.

EPA or the appropriate state/local agency may more easily assist you in addressing potential barriers if it is aware of your plans for reusing the site in the early stages of the cleanup of the site. Learn more about potential reuse barriers by reviewing the site’s "Progress Profile" accessible through EPA's CERCLIS database, or by contacting EPA Region 5 or the appropriate state/local agency.

EPA - through its Return to Use (RTU) Initiative - also helps to facilitate reuse of Superfund sites that have already been cleaned up but remain vacant. There are over 40 RTU demonstration projects nationwide, including fifteen in Region 5.

Contact the Superfund Redevelopment Coordinator in Region 5 to learn more about the Return to Use Initiative.

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Step 5: Address Potential Lender Concerns about Financing

Lender concerns about financing the redevelopment of contaminated properties are diminishing for several reasons, and EPA's willingness to work with buyers and their lenders makes the acquisition of Superfund properties easier. EPA has several tools to help alleviate potential lenders' concerns about financing contaminated properties, including:

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Step 6: Explore Options for Involving Community in Redevelopment

EPA's primary responsibility at Superfund sites is to ensure the protection of human health and the environment. However, with forethought and effective planning, communities can coordinate with EPA and return sites to productive use without jeopardizing the effectiveness of the remedy.

EPA provides support in four areas that can assist communities in the Superfund cleanup and redevelopment process including:

EPA Region 5 may also provide:

Contact the Superfund Redevelopment Coordinator in Region 5 to learn more.

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