Frequently asked questions
1. Q: What is a brownfield site?
A: The EPA defines a brownfield site as "real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant."
2. Q: What are some examples of brownfield sites?
A: A site can be considered a brownfield site so long as it meets the EPA's definition of a brownfield site. This includes, but is not limited to, meth labs, industrial facilities, illegal dump sites, mine-scarred lands, gas stations/convenient stores, landfills, auto shops, homes, and offices where contamination hinders the future redevelopment, reuse, or expansion of the site.
3. Q: What exactly is a tribal response program?
A: Section 128(a)(2) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) states that an environmental response program (tribal response program in our case) must include the following four elements: (1) Timely survey and inventory of brownfield sites in state or tribal land. (2) Oversight and enforcement authorities or other mechanisms and resources that are adequate to ensure that: (a) response action will protect human health and the environment and be conducted in accordance with applicable laws; and (b) the state or tribe will complete the necessary response activities if the person conducting the response fails to complete the necessary response (this includes operation and maintenance and/or long-term monitoring activities). (3) Mechanisms and resources to provide meaningful opportunities for public participation, including: (a) public access to documents and related materials that a state, tribe, or party conducting the cleanup is relying on or developing to make cleanup decisions or conduct site activities; (b) prior notice and opportunity for meaningful public comment on cleanup plans and site activities, including input into the prioritization of sites; and (c) a mechanism by which a person who is, or may be, affected by a release of threatened release of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminants at a brownfield site—located in the community in which the person works or resides—may request that a site assessment be conducted. The appropriate state or tribal official must consider this request and appropriately respond. (4) Mechanisms for approval of a cleanup plan and verification and certification that cleanup is complete. A public record is an additional required component of a response program.
In general, the Tribal Response Program is an enforcement program that is designed to provide the Tribe with oversight and enforcement authorities to ensure that hazardous sites (including brownfield sites) are managed (i.e., assessed and cleaned up) in accordance with all appropriate laws and regulations (see Element 2 above).
4. Q: What is the difference between a brownfield site and a hazardous site?
A: The Tribal Response Program will classify a site as a hazardous site if it is known or suspected to contain any hazardous waste/substance, pollutant, or contaminant; if such a site also possesses the potential for redevelopment or cultural/historical significance, the Tribal Response Program will classify it as a brownfield site. The Tribal Response Program will survey (if site conditions permit) and subsequently inventory all other hazardous sites, and may attempt to identify persons liable for the contamination, but will not assess or clean them up using federal funding, unless they are eligible brownfield sites. PLEASE NOTE: The limited amount of funding that the EPA awards to the Tribe for brownfield site redevelopment may only be used to assess and cleanup eligible brownfield sites (provided that funding is available); the program does not fund the actual redevelopment (e.g., infrastructure improvements, construction, etc.) of brownfield sites.
5. Q: How does the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe prioritize brownfield sites and hazardous sites?
A: Human, environmental, and ecological exposure to a hazardous waste/substance, pollutant, or contaminant are factors the Natural Resources Department considers when prioritizing both brownfield sites and hazardous sites. When prioritizing brownfield sites, the Natural Resources Department AND other tribal departments (Tribal Administration, Tribal Historic Preservation Office, etc.) consider whether any such site possesses any potential for redevelopment and cultural or historical significance in addition to the aforementioned factors. The brownfield sites that the Tribal Response Program plans to address within the next year rank the highest based on the aforementioned factors and the limited information that is known about them.
6. Q: Does the Tribal Response Program address illegal dump sites?
A: It depends on what is present at the illegal dump site. Generally, the Tribal Response Program will refer an illegal dump site that only contains non-hazardous materials to another program or department. If an illegal dump site contains a hazardous waste/substance, pollutant, or contaminant the Tribal Response Program will survey (if site conditions permit) and subsequently inventory it and (if necessary) may initiate an investigation to determine persons liable for the incident (see the answer to Question 4). If an illegal dump site contains hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants and is located within an area where redevelopment, reuse, or expansion is planned by the Tribe, it may qualify as a brownfield site.
7. Q: How long does it take to complete the brownfield redevelopment process?
A: The brownfield redevelopment process can be lengthy. Factors that determine the length of a brownfield site's redevelopment include, but are not limited to, the type of contamination at the site (e.g., severely contaminated sites take longer to assess and clean-up), the redevelopment plans for the site, funding availability, contractor availability (brownfield sites must usually be assessed and cleaned up with the help of a contractor due to extensive certification requirements), etc. A brownfield site assessment (Phase I and Phase II ESA) alone can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months to complete.
8. Q: What is a Targeted Brownfield Assessment (TBA) and how does it differ from a "regular assessment"?
A: In general, TBAs are conducted in the same manner as "regular assessments"; the difference between the two is that the U.S. EPA uses its own contractor to conduct TBAs and pays for them directly. The U.S. EPA TBA Program is a supplementary funding source for addressing brownfield sites. Eligible entities must apply and get approved for a TBA.