Remediating and Redeveloping Brownfields in New Jersey
A Guide for Municipalities and Community Organizations
Brownfields are found across the Garden State in urban, suburban and rural communities. Many of us drive or walk past them every day. Like many unoccupied properties, brownfields may contain deteriorating buildings with broken glass and litter, becoming unsafe places for children to congregate or an eyesore for the neighborhood. This guide will examine the activities and laws that are involved in transforming brownfields into productive neighborhood assets.
A brownfield is a property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. (Note:
Brownfields are a large class of properties, not to be confused with Superfund/National Priority List sites. Superfund sites generally have more complex or dangerous contamination problems and are overseen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). The 220+ Superfund sites in New Jersey, in various stages of assessment, cleanup, delisting or monitoring, are listed on the EPA’s website at www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/npl/.)
Common examples of brownfield properties are former manufacturing, processing or transportation facilities, dumps, gas stations, dry cleaners, and many others. The possible or actual contamination complicates the brownfield property owner’s ability to expand, redevelop, or reuse the site. The unknown extent of the contamination, and therefore the liability and cleanup costs, make the property unattractive to potential buyers and redevelopers.
Hydraulic fracturing (hydrofracking) produces fractures in rock formations (thousands of feet below the surface) by pumping large quantities of fluids at high pressure down vertical and horizontal wellbores in order to extract natural gas or oil. The hydraulic fracturing fluid consists of water, proppant (sand, ceramic pellets) and chemical additives including volatile organic chemicals and carcinogens like benzene, methyl benzene, and formaldehyde.
Once the injection process is completed, the internal pressure of the rock formation causes fluid to return to the surface through the wellbore. This “flowback” or “produced water” may contain the injected chemicals plus naturally occurring materials such as brines, metals, radionuclides, and hydrocarbons.
Environmental hazards associated with fracking includes air pollution, ground water and surface water contamination, wastewater disposal concerns, shrinking water supplies, potential earthquakes, and habitat loss. The Delaware River Basin Commission has proposed draft rules banning hydrofracking that have yet to be implemented.
At least three New Jersey municipalities have enacted ordinances banning fracking and dozens of NJ communities have passed resolutions opposing the dangerous consequences of hydrofracking.