Dig It: Rethinking how we Manage Soil at Redevelopment Sites

by Martha Faust and Sarah Sieloff (Center for Creative Land Recycling)

When is soil just “dirt”, when is it a waste, and when is it a resource? The answer may be in the eye of the beholder. Given the length of time it takes to create 1 cm3 of topsoil (estimated at 200-400 years), the current approach to managing excess soil at redevelopment sites in the United State (U.S.) merits further analysis.

Following passage of the 1980 Federal Superfund law, states, localities, and the real estate sector began considering the redevelopment potential of sites with environmental histories that were below the Superfund threshold. In 1988, the Minnesota Legislature amended the state Superfund law, creating the country’s first voluntary investigation and cleanup program, initially called the Property Transfer Program. The Property Transfer Program’s purpose was to review and approve investigation reports and response actions plans prepared by voluntary parties, and provide assurance letters to help facilitate real estate transactions. In those early days, response actions focused on excavating and disposing of contaminated fill soils. Applying cost-benefit analysis to “dig and dump” practice was not a key consideration. Success was determined by helping otherwise unmarketable properties move forward.

Fast forward to today, and we are truly living in different times. Around the world and across the country, governments have recognized the need for next-generation thinking about how we manage excess soils. New considerations include cost savings, efficiency, the advent of risk-based site cleanups, what constitutes a solid waste, as well as sustainability, resilience and climate adaptation. Factor in scarce public resources to fund redevelopment, and the need to take a fresh look at current practices is obvious.

The Center for Creative Land Recycling and Minnesota Brownfields recently teamed up to present two webinars showcasing the latest innovations in managing excess soil.  The first session covered the United Kingdom’s (U.K.’s) approach to excess soils management. Sustainability considerations, as well as diminishing landfill space and sharp increases in tipping fees, led to governmental rule changes and the creation of CL:aire, a national clearinghouse in England and Wales for the exchange of both regulated and unregulated materials. CL:aire oversees a system for matching receiving and importing sites, following a Definition of Waste Code of Practice (DoW CoP). The DoW CoP enables the reuse of excavated materials on-site or their movement between sites. Since launching in 2008, the DoW CoP has resulted in nearly 3300 “declarations” or projects, and has diverted 56,106,448m3 from landfills— enough to fill over 22,000 Olympic swimming pools. Following the U.K. government’s lead, the redevelopment industry was crucial to informing and developing the DoW CoP. As a non-governmental organization, CL:aire is responsible for logistics, tracking, and quality control of professionals, providing a comprehensive system that is well beyond the capacity of most governments. It is true that liability is a far less prevalent concern in the U.K. than in the U.S. Nonetheless, U.S. governments seeking new approaches to excess soil management will find they can learn much from the CL:aire system.

The second webinar examined newer models around the U.S. for excess soil management. In 2017, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation implemented Part 360 rule changes, ending the classification of fill soils as a solid waste subject to four conditions, and providing non-landfill options for reuse of fill soils. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is currently exploring modifying state statute to enable liability protection for exporters and importers of regulated fill soils. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has teamed up with the U.S. EPA’s Cleveland office to implement beneficial reuse of dredged material at eight federally operated ports, using a process to repurpose the dredged materials for agricultural uses. And in New York City, the Office of Environmental Remediation’s Clean Soil Bank is a municipal soil exchange connecting clean fill to a variety of end uses and users, including parks and climate resilience waterfront projects. In so doing, the Clean Soil Bank has produced significant project cost savings and environmental benefits. Did you miss either or both of these webinars? Not to worry: the Center for Creative Land Recycling has you covered with slideshows and recordings.

Together, these webinars show how governments are adapting soil management rules and policy to respond to changing conditions. Cities and states are facing new challenges:  deteriorating infrastructure and diminishing landfill space; environmental justice concerns; cost efficiency; public health considerations; truck emissions; climate resilience and sustainability are all influencing the current debate. So again, we ask: when is soil just “dirt”, when is it a waste, and when is it a resource? In answering this question, one thing is certain: the rules and policies of 30 years ago are no longer sufficient to respond to current redevelopment needs.

Forum – When Vapor Intrusion Strikes: Staying Ahead of the Plume

Vapor intrusion continues to have a significant impact on the redevelopment community.  Join us to learn about key updates, issues, and challenges related to vapor intrusion at commercial and industrial sites in Minnesota.  The forum will also feature a region-wide perspective on vapor intrusion policy and regulations in the Midwest. Presenters will include representatives from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and experts from across the industry. The forum will address regulatory, technical, legal, and economic components of this complex issue.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018
8:30 A.M. – 12:00 P.M. (Registration 8:00 A.M. -8:30 A.M.)

University of St. Thomas
Anderson Student Center – North James B. Woulfe Alumni Hall
2115 Summit Ave., St. Paul, MN

Pricing: Registration Deadline is March 1 – Register Here
Member rate – $65
Non-member rate – $115

CLE’s: Applied for 

Not sure of your membership status? Contact Angela Tangen at atangen@mnbrownfields.org or at 612.710.0160.

For purchase orders or check payments, please contact Nance Anders at nance@mnbrownfields.org or at 651.485.9861.



U.S. EPA Region 5 Perspective on Vapor Intrusion  – What Are Other States Doing?
Alyssa Sellwood, Vapor Intrusion Team Leader, Wisconsin DNR
Region 5 Vapor Intrusion policy and regulatory overview with focus on recent Wisconsin Vapor Intrusion guidance revised in January 2018

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) – Update on Vapor Intrusion
Hans Neve, Tim Grape, and Gary Krueger 
– Vapor Intrusion Best Management Practices (BMP) Updates and Clarifications
– Vapor Intrusion BMP Path Forward and Stakeholder Input
– Additional Assistance at Vapor Intrusion Projects: New Technical Assistance Letters & MPCA eService Enrollment

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency – Intrusion Screening Values
Bonnie Brooks
Status of Intrusion Screening Values (ISVs)

Panel: Vapor Intrusion at Commercial & Industrial Sites:  Key Issues & Challenges
Moderator: Steve Jansen, Braun Intertec
Northeast Bank: Mark Ethen
Terracon: Jen Force
Bremer Bank: Briana Kirby
Gray Plant Mooty: Rick Kubler
OPUS: Richard Manser
MPCA: Hans Neve

Thank you to our sponsors: 

Executive Sponsor

Partner Sponsor:
Joseph Maternowski –



Soil Reuse Webinars – February 7 & 14, 2018


Minnesota Brownfields proudly partnered with the Center for Creative Land Recycling on two webinars on the subject of soil reuse.

Part I – Dig It: Reusing Contaminated Soil in the U.K. and U.S.
Download the PDF

Redevelopment sites throughout the U.S. are confronted by how to manage surplus marginally-to-moderately contaminated soil. The default practice of landfilling surplus soil is neither an efficient nor viable long-term option, economically or environmentally. Learn how an influential model based in the United Kingdom is addressing the issue of limited landfill space and the market for soil reuse at redevelopment sites, and its relevance to U.S. governments and the private marketplace.

Martha Faust – Minnesota Brownfields
Nick Willenbrock – CL:aire
Sarah Sieloff – Center for Creative Land Recycling

Part II – Dig It: Models and Recent Changes for Reusing Soil in the U.S.
Download the PDF
View a recording of the webinar here 

Redevelopment sites throughout the U.S. are confronted by how to manage excess soils, presenting challenges in terms of contamination, project timing, staging areas, liability protection, and more. Learn about different approaches that governments around the country have developed for clean and regulated fill soils, including dredge materials, and what the future could hold.

Martha Faust – Minnesota Brownfields
Kevin McCarty – GEI Consultants
Amy Hadiaris – Minnesota Pollution Control Agency 
Brooke Furio & David Emerman – U.S. EPA, Ohio EPA
Dan Walsh & Lee Ilan – NYC Mayor’s Office of Environmental Remediation

2017 EPA National Brownfields Leadership Conference Recap

The 2017 EPA National Brownfields Training Conference is officially in the books. From December 4 through December 7, Minnesota Brownfields staff were in Pittsburgh at the EPA’s flagship conference for brownfields professionals. The bi-annual get together served as a tremendous opportunity to share best practices and new ideas.

A major theme that resonated throughout the conference was that there is a determined spirit shared across the country to continue pushing forward for brownfield redevelopment. There were plenty of opportunities to celebrate the amazing work that has already been done, but there was also an understanding that there is still much work to do.

Keynote speakers for the conference, Dan French of Brownfield Listings and John Paul Farmer of Microsoft, both detailed how the brownfields community is interconnected to the greater economy and society. Brownfield redevelopments are projects that impact everyone and are symbols of progress and rebuilding. As a piece of the bigger picture, brownfields serve as a spark for innovation, collaboration, and new opportunities.

Here are some major highlights of the conference from Minnesota Brownfields:

  • The biggest thrill of the week was that Minnesota Brownfields hosted a panel presentation titled “Dig It: Global Approaches to Contaminated Soil Reuse” with Nick Willenbrock of CL:AIRE, a United Kingdom NGO that operates a soil reuse system. Approximately 120 attendees came to the presentation to learn how CL:AIRE’s model for soil reuse was developed and implemented. A separate affiliate meeting followed the presentation where multiple states came to learn more. Minnesota Brownfields has worked closely with CL:AIRE over the last few years to advance the discussion of soil reuse in Minnesota. To be able to share this collaborative research with a national community was a prominent point in Minnesota Brownfields’ push to make soil reuse a reality in Minnesota.
  • Minnesota Brownfields also participated in multiple national affiliate meetings on the subject of public health and brownfields. The meetings, which were organized by the U.S. EPA, allowed Minnesota Brownfields to share the Brownfields Health Indicator Tool that was created in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Health. The tool was used in a pilot project in the City of Duluth. This was a tremendous opportunity to share the tool with a national audience.
  • Minnesota Brownfields made many connections with many other state and regional organizations that operate in a similar fashion. The list includes, the Brownfield Coalition of the Northeast, Center for Creative Land Recycling, Florida Brownfields Association, Georgia Brownfield Association, and the New York City Brownfield Partnership. There was also a meeting with representatives from the State of Kentucky that are interested in starting an organization similar to Minnesota Brownfields. We are excited for these relationships to grow.
  • A fun-filled evening was had at Minnesota Brownfields’ happy hour as well. Friends and colleagues, old and new alike, were able to connect and enjoy each other’s company while at the conference.

Now fully energized and motivated from the conference, Minnesota Brownfields is determined to continue our mission of promoting the sustainable reuse of contaminated land. Stay tuned as the new year approaches. We expect 2018 to be full of innovation and progress. Please consider joining us.

Forum – Institutional Controls: Everything You’ve Wanted to Know but Were Afraid to Ask

Institutional Controls or (“ICs”) are legal and administrative tools used at development sites to protect human health and the environment when contamination is left in place. Failure to understand how ICs work and how they are interlinked with all aspects of site reuse can lead to confusion and added time and cost to a project.
Attendees learned about the various types of ICs, when and how they are used, their benefits and limitations, current complexities, and how to balance opportunities for future site reuse with environmental protection.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

WSB & Associates

Presentation Content:
PowerPoint Presentation
– Primer
– Institutional Controls Additional Resources

Ken Haberman – Landmark Environmental
Roseanne Hope – Hope Law Firm
Carmen Netten – Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
Sara Peterson – Parkway Law
Joe Maternowski – Hessian & McKasy
Shanna Schmitt – Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
Audra Williams – Ryan Companies
Institutional Controls Speaker Bios

CLE’s: 3.0 Standard Credits – Event Code: 205612

Sponsored by:

Displaying WSB-Logo_Color_Web.jpg

and Minnesota Brownfields Community Council Members


Hopportunity Knocks, Again: More Brownfields, Beer, and the Law

Please join Minnesota Brownfields and the Minnesota State Bar Association’s Environmental, Natural Resource, and Energy Law section for an informative session on redevelopment and craft breweries.  The event will be held at Utepils Brewery in Minneapolis (map) on Tuesday, October 24th from 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. with a happy hour to follow.

Register for the event here.


1:30 PM: Check-In/Registration

Environmental Law Hot Topics
Historical Fill Reuse Liability – Sara Peterson, Parkway Law
Vapor Liability – Elizabeth Schmiesing, Winthrop & Weinstein

Brownfield Funding Update
Kristin Lukes, MNDEED

A Flight of Brewery Stories
Castle Danger Expansion – Donovan Hannu, Baywest
Brewery at Northern Stacks – Chris Thompson, Braun Intertec
Craft Brewery Sustainability – Michelle Stockness, Barr Engineering

A Final Round – To Be Announced

4:00 PM: Happy Hour Reception

Northern Stacks Redevelopment Tour with EDAM

Take part in this exclusive opportunity as a Minnesota Brownfields member to tour the Northern Stacks Development in Fridley alongside Economic Development Association of Minnesota members. The event is scheduled for Wednesday, November 15th from 3:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. Northern Stacks is on a former Superfund site and the redevelopment required a great amount of environmental remediation. Hyde Development and Mortenson Company had the vision for the project, and along with the City of Fridley and DEED, were able to make Northern Stacks a reality. Sign up for this tour and to learn from Hyde Development about the project. Spots are limited to the first 20 people for this free event. Please register by October 27th. Register here.

The Future is Bright for Solar Energy on Capped Landfills

Solar energy production has taken off in Minnesota over the past few years, and especially in the last handful of months. In 2017, according to the Minnesota Department of Commerce, the solar energy capacity has tripled in the state during the first quarter of the year. Currently, the energy capacity for solar in Minnesota is twelve times what it was in 2015. Community solar projects have been the main catalyst for Minnesota’s solar surge. The practice where multiple parties buy into an energy supply is attractive to many because it is a more manageable method of obtaining solar energy.

Landfills just may be another piece to the puzzle that helps Minnesota further increase solar energy production. Within the past year, landfills in Lake Elmo and St. Michael installed solar panels to assist in powering equipment that prevents the pollution of toxic gasses from the landfills. This is a practice used on capped landfills and the excess energy produced is then converted to the grid. In 2015, the city of Hutchinson unveiled the largest landfill solar project in Minnesota when 400 kw of ballasted racking mounted solar photovoltaic panels (PV) were installed on a capped landfill.

What solar energy projects need is suitable land that provides quality solar exposure. Capped landfills have the capability to provide land serviceable for (PV). A covered landfill is often not viable for commercial or industrial construction, but renewable energy is a useful alternative. Given that capped landfills tend to by flat and are mostly unhindered by surrounding trees or buildings, they provide optimal solar exposure. More often than not, landfills are located in areas with easy access for utilities and construction crews. Around the country, municipalities, utilities, and landfill owners have found that solar can be the ideal fit for capped landfills. The limited uses in repurposing can provide new economic generation for the site.

There are certain characteristics that need to be in place for a closed landfill to be suitable for a solar energy system to be installed. A south facing landfill is the optimal direction in order to obtain the most solar throughout the course of the year, and having the landfill be tilted at the corresponding latitude. Also, the waste that is underneath the landfill cap will decompose and shift over time, which alters the landfill cap. Ballasted racking systems are the traditional solar installation needed for capped landfills so that the cap is not penetrated. Concrete blocks are positioned on the ground to allow for a structure to be built that holds the solar panels while not having to install anything below the surface of the ground.

Some new technologies are emerging that negate the use of ballasted racking systems for capped landfills. Hickory Ridge Landfill in Conley, GA is on the leading edge of landfill geomembrane solar cap technology. The landfill’s 45 acre geomembrane cap is covered with 7,000 PV rolls that covers 10 acres of the landfill cap. Overall this landfill produces 1 MW of energy that is sold back to a local utility. The benefits of the solar geomembrane cap are that the panels lie flat on the surface and it allows for shifts in the land composition below the cap itself. In addition, installation is easier than a ballasted racking system. Check out a video of the science behind the Hickory Ridge Landfill.

With there being limited options available for repurposing an old landfill, solar energy has emerged as an attractive option. Solar PV installation offers a new economic incentive and with developing solar technologies, such as the PV rolls used at the Hickory Ridge Landfill, landfill solar energy can become a feasible alternative for capped landfills in Minnesota and across the country.

Visit the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s Closed Landfill Program for information on alternatives for closed landfills in Minnesota.


– EPA Best Practices for Sitting Solar Photovoltaics on Municipal Solid Waste Landfills

Pizza and Politics: Navigating the New Federal Brownfield Landscape

A special members-only lunchtime discussion with one of the nation’s leading authorities on brownfield and community redevelopment/reuse strategies & financing. Charlie Bartsch has over 30 years of experience analyzing economic and community development policies. He joined us on July 24, 2017 to discuss the new federal brownfield funding landscape: what lies ahead, and how states and communities can and should adapt their community redevelopment financing strategies given the new normal.

Charlie Bartsch is currently an independent strategist for communities in economic transition, and has been appointed a Senior Fellow at the Northeast-Midwest Institute, a public policy center affiliated with the bi-partisan Northeast-Midwest Congressional and Senate Coalitions.  He is immediate past Senior Advisor for Economic Development to the EPA Assistant Administrator, Office of Land and Emergency Management, where he was charged with promoting inter-agency and public-private financing partnerships to spur land revitalization and site reuse. Among his duties, he worked closely with the EPA-DOT-HUD Partnership for Sustainable Communities, advised the Office of Brownfields and Land Revitalization on area-wide planning and auto communities revitalization financing strategies, served as an EPA point person on the White House “ strong cities/Strong Communities  recovery initiative, and took the lead role in developing the agency’s manufacturing revitalization strategy for the Obama Administration/National Economic Council’s Investing in Manufacturing Communities (IMCP) initiative, helping to direct the White House/inter-agency team in designing and carrying out this effort. Charlie received his Master’s in Urban Policy and Planning from the University of Illinois-Chicago, and his B.A. in political science and history from North Central College in Naperville, Illinois. North Central College named him 2013 alumni of the year.


State of Brownfields Update

JULY 18, 2017 – The 2017 State of Brownfields Update. We analyzed the 2017 MN Legislative Session and what it means for brownfield redevelopment. In addition we previewed potential changes to state soil reuse policies.

See the agenda here.


Sandeep Burman, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
Amy Hadiaris, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
Sara Peterson, Parkway Law
Charlie Vander Aarde, Metro Cities

View the slideshow here.

Speaker Bios.


CLEs: Applied For

Thank you to our host 


Minnesota Real Estate Journal

Brownfields Summit – May 25, 2017 Speakers: Dan Fetter, Barr Engineering Janice Gundlach, City of New Brighton Gary Krueger, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Kristin Lukes, MN DEED Shauen Pearce-Lassiter, GREATER MSP/Central Cities Competitiveness Initiative Betsy Schmiesing, Winthrop & Weinstine Jesse Silverstein, Development Research Partners (Denver, CO) Mary Stoick, Highland Bank D’Angelos Svenkeson, THOR Construction Jack Byers, Minneapolis CPED Kim Donat, Wellington Management View combined slideshow here.

Vapor Intrusion Forum Series


Regulations and BMPs – MPCA
Air Quality & Health Screening Methods– Department of Health
Vapor Intrusion and Building Design– Braun Intertec
VI Sampling/Testing Methodology– Pace Analytical, Braun Intertec
Case Study, Commercial Site With Active Mitigation– Barr Engineering









2016 State of Brownfields Update

Our 9th annual State of Brownfields Update was June 28, 2016. The program included A Look Back: 10 years of Minnesota Brownfields, updates from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, and more.

Sandeep Burman– Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
Deborah DeLuca – Duluth Seaway Port Authority
Ken Haberman – Landmark Environmental
Wayne Nelson – retired (formerly Metropolitan Council)
Kristina Smitten – Hillcrest Development
Cathy Villas-Horns – Minnesota Department of Agriculture

See the agenda here.

Minnesota Real Estate Journal – Redevelopment Summit

Minnesota Brownfields hosted the Minnesota Real Estate Journal‘s 2016 Redevelopment Summit on May 19. Click the links below to access speaker presentations:

How Redevelopment Supports a Strong Regional Economy – Cecile Bedor, GREATER MSP

Surburban Redevelopment: Northern Stacks 1 – From Blight to Office Development in Fridley
Scott Hickok, City of Fridley
Paul Hyde, Hyde Development
Chris Thompson, Braun Intertec

Hot Neighborhoods: University Avenue Innovation District – A Tale of Two Cities
Brandon Champeau, United Properties
John Evans, Hennepin County
Dick Gilyard, Prospect Park
Julie Kimble, Kimble Consulting

Greater Minnesota Redevelopment: Spotlight on Mankato
Kristin Prososki, City of Mankato

How To: Rules and Tools that Enable Redevelopment on Brownfields
Shanna Schmitt, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
Kristin Lukes, Minnesota Department of Employment & Economic Development
Martha Faust, Minnesota Brownfields

Stormwater Management on Brownfields

Stormwater Management on Brownfields

Minnesota Brownfields looked into stormwater management on brownfield sites, during and after remediation. This event covered topics including:

  • Regulations and enforcement
  • Emerging issues, new technology, and green infrastructure
  • Subsurface Contamination- groundwater and soil
  • Liability and Concerns for Plume and Vapor Intrusion
  • Long term management vs management during construction
  • Successes, headaches and challenges on diverse case study sites: Atlas Cement (Duluth), Beacon Bluff (St. Paul), and Prospect Park (Minneapolis)

Ross Bintner, City of Edina
Nathan Campeau, Barr Engineering
Eric Dott, Barr Engineering

Dan Fetter, Barr Engineering
Mary Finch, Hennepin County
Mike Hayman, Minnehaha Creek Watershed District
Rebecca Higgins, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
Monte Hilleman, St. Paul Port Authority
Dan Kalmon, Mississippi Watershed Management Authority
Joe Otte, Wenck Associates

Jeff Shopek, Loucks Associates 
Shawn Tracy, HR Green
Mike Trojan, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
Michael Welch, Smith Partners

See the agenda here.

Presentations from 2012 are available here:
Stormwater basics for the non-stormwater expert
Brownfields basics