Steps to Site Cleanup

Cleaning up a polluted site is a complex and challenging undertaking for any community. Dividing this project into smaller, manageable steps makes this huge job less intimidating. On the right are steps your community can take to clean up the polluted site in your area. Links to each of the following steps provides fact sheets and presentations to help you make better decisions to clean up a polluted site. These steps are presented in a manner in which you might encounter them, although each cleanup site is unique and these steps may not pertain to each site.

The information provided in links at right is designed to help communities ask and answer several key questions: Who is affected by this contaminated property and what are their wishes? What contaminants are on the site? What media (soils, ground water, surface water) have been affected? What are the effects of these contaminants on human health and the environment? What are the risks? What are legal considerations? How will clean up be paid for? What should be done about the contamination (ranging from "do nothing" to "dig up everything and haul it away")? Finally, what is to become of the site once it is cleaned up?

Overview of the Cleanup Process

Successfully cleaning up Brownfields and Superfund sites for productive reuse requires the integration of many diverse activities: scientific and engineering issues, environmental assessment, financing, regulatory requirements, liability considerations, and community psychology. The assessment and cleanup of a site must be carried out in a way that integrates all those factors into the overall redevelopment process.

Cleanup strategies will vary from site to site. At some sites, cleanup will be completed before the property is transferred to new owners. At other sites, cleanup may take place simultaneously with construction and redevelopment activities. Regardless of when and how cleanup is accomplished, the challenge to any cleanup program is to clean up sites quickly and redevelop the land in ways that benefit communities and local economies. For timely and cost effective cleanup, all the steps and their outcomes should be considered before proceeding with the work of any given step.

Before cleaning up a site, it is important to have some background information including an overview of the process and learning the basics of Brownfields and Superfund sites.

Introduction to the Site Cleanup Process - This 5-page summary provides a brief introduction to the steps involved in cleaning up.

What is a Brownfield? - Brownfield is an abandoned, idled, or under-used industrial and commercial facility where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived environmental contamination.
Click here to find more information about brownfields and links to individual state brownfield programs.

What is Superfund? - Years ago, people were less aware of how dumping chemical wastes might affect public health and the environment. On thousands of properties where such practices were intensive or continuous, the result was uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites, such as abandoned warehouses and landfills. Citizen concern over the extent of this problem led Congress to establish the Superfund Program in 1980 to locate, investigate, and clean up the worst sites nationwide.
Click here to find more information about Superfund Program and links to the agencies dealing with Superfund Program.


The Steps

1. Community Participation - Working with the community from the beginning can save both time and money, expedite the approval process and result in an outcome that has broad public support.

2. Environmental Assessment - Before taking care of a problem, the problem must be examined. Assessments range from Baseline Environmental Assessment (BEA) to Remedial Investigation Feasibility Study (RIFS).

3. Pollutant Behavior - fate, transport, and exposure of pollutants

4. Health Effects - human and environmental health, toxicology, epidemiology, dose response

5. Risk Assessment - 1) risk assessment is a tool to make informed decisions. Health risks are measured by toxicity of pollutant times exposure to the pollutant. 2) risk management is reducing risks that are unacceptable.

6. Regulations and Legal Considerations - local, state and federal laws

7. Financing - Financial tools to help municipalities and developers redevelop contaminated lands. In this step you explore all the possible funding sources including loans, grants, tax credits, training funds and funds from local, state and federal sources.

8. Remediation - Technical solutions to clean up or eliminate problem by either appropriate remediation technologies

9. Redevelopment - This step includes whatever happens to the site once it is cleaned up. is created at Michigan State University and is sponsored by National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.  If you have comments or questions, please contact us.