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

Brownfield and Health Tool gives blighted sites across the state a healthy second chance

A new tool brings hope to some of Minnesota’s more than 10,000 former industrial or commercial sites that are underused or abandoned due to concerns about hazardous contaminants. Revitalizing these sites – called brownfields – can bring people and jobs back to areas, improve neighborhoods, help the environment and promote public health.

The City of Duluth is using the new Brownfield Health Indicator Tool to address the common challenges of transforming brownfields into productive community assets, including the complicated process of identifying and prioritizing redevelopment strategies that will best meet the long-term needs of the environment and community. The tool, developed in partnership with Minnesota Brownfields and the Minnesota Department of Health, aims to streamline project decision-making by focusing on health.

“From social cohesion to healthy housing to community service access, brownfield redevelopment provides an amazing opportunity to shape a wide range of factors that influence public health,” said James Kelly, environmental surveillance and assessment manager for the Minnesota Department of Health. “This tool was developed to help city planners, developers, institutions and communities across Minnesota understand these opportunities and uncover project strategies that are grounded in health equity. When you shape your process through the lens of health equity, benefits for the environment and economy will follow.”

Designed as a self-guided tool by those who influence and work on brownfield projects, the Brownfield Health Indicator Tool’s framework supports existing project decision-making processes. The tool can also help identify potential community health risks, assess the project’s proposed benefits, engage with project stakeholders and prioritize redevelopment strategies that provide multiple benefits.

Idle brownfield sites are often found in economically distressed areas, typically concentrated in urban locations, but they are also found in prime downtown and waterfront locations in nearly every community throughout the state. As abandoned sites, they disrupt ecological, economic and community connections. Revitalizing brownfield sites can offer an opportunity to bring people and jobs back to areas, resolve neighborhood blight, increase community connectivity, restore ecological balance and promote public health.

“Communities across Minnesota are looking for brownfield redevelopment best practices that balance the demands of economic growth with environmental and public health protection,” said Martha Faust, executive director of Minnesota Brownfields. “There are so many things to consider when redeveloping a brownfield site, which makes it difficult to organize and prioritize needs. Our partnerships at state and city levels have demonstrated that we can remove one of the process barriers in brownfield redevelopment by using this tool’s framework and by working on this together, we can better support the revitalization of Minnesota communities.”

The current City of Duluth Irving-Fairmount Brownfields Revitalization Plan draft draws guidance from the Brownfield Health Indicator Tool, specifically in the areas of social cohesion (integrating a neighborhood gathering space), connectivity (new pedestrian trail and improved truck circulation) and economic stability (land redevelopment for both economic development and housing). Health equity and well-being are also core principles, tied to the Imagine Duluth 2035 comprehensive planning process.

“Brownfield redevelopment is all about a do-over,” said Heidi Timm-Bijold, business resources manager for the City of Duluth. “This tool has been a critical asset in making the most of our second chance in the Irving and Fairmount neighborhoods by helping us all better understand, prioritize and elevate what health means for this community and what opportunities this redevelopment offers. By engaging the community and our research team with this tool, we were able to articulate core values for the project that we might have missed otherwise.”

Integrating the tool into their brownfield redevelopment process represents one step in the journey of leveraging brownfields as catalysts for healthy change in the City of Duluth. The city plans to take learnings from this pilot project and use them as a springboard for shaping future redevelopment efforts as it maps out land use for the Imagine Duluth 2035 comprehensive plan.

To access the Brownfield Health Indicator Tool, visit Brownfield Health Indicator Tool or Brownfields and Public Health.

For more information about the City of Duluth’s work, visit Irving-Fairmount Brownfields Revitalization Plan. The City of Duluth project is funded by a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Area-Wide Planning Grant, which provides funding to communities to research, plan and develop implementation strategies for cleaning up and revitalizing a specific area affected by one or more brownfield sites.

Media Inquiries:

Hava Blair                                  Anne Hendrickson                                Heidi Timm-Bijold
Minnesota Brownfields           Minnesota Department of Health     City of Duluth
(612) 513-4301                          (651) 201-4171                                       (218) 730-5324
hblair@mnbrownfields.org    anne.hendrickson@state.mn.us        HTimmBijold@duluthmn.gov



RFP: Construction Monitoring for Contaminated Materials for the Green Line Extension (“Southwest LRT”) Project

The Metropolitan Council is soliciting proposals for environmental services to assist the Council with construction monitoring for contaminated materials and Response Action Plan implementation during construction of the Green Line Extension (“Southwest LRT”) Project.

Bids must be received by June 20, 5:00pm CST.

Click Here to view and download the RFP documents (including Plan Holder Report and Addendums). The RFP may be viewed on-line at no charge and downloaded for a nonrefundable cost of $10.00. Please input this QuestCDN eBidDoc™ Number 5140569 on the website’s Project Search page. Contact QuestCDN at 952-233-1632 or info@questcdn.com for assistance in downloading and working with the digital documents.

Proposers are strongly encouraged to verify subcontractor’s State and Federal debarment and suspension status here. Per 2 CFR 200.319, contractors that develop or draft specifications, requirements, statements of work, and invitations for bids or requests for proposals must be excluded from competing for such procurements.

Questions concerning the content of the RFP documents may be directed to: Auburn Dees RFP Administrator Metropolitan Council 390 North Robert Street St. Paul, MN 55101 Phone: (651) 602-1349 auburn.dees@metc.state.mn.us.

Can you dig it? Minnesota looks at potential for greater reuse of regulated fill soils.

States around the U.S. have different regulations governing how regulated (contaminated) fill soils at redevelopment sites are managed, and whether they can be reused. The most common practice is what’s called “dig and dump”, or excavating soils with contaminant concentrations in exceedance of permitted levels, then hauling those soils to an area landfill to use as daily cover. Problem solved, right? Turns out, not exactly.

Hauling regulated soil to landfills is expensive. For many Minnesota metro-area redevelopment projects receiving brownfield grant funds, up to 100% of grant funding is sometimes used just for dig and dump. Given that most brownfield grant programs are oversubscribed, this is concerning. Furthermore, trucks transporting the fill soils to often remote landfills result in additional vehicle miles traveled. Elsewhere around the world, countries like Great Britain are at or nearing landfill capacity and have had to find other solutions to this problem. Meanwhile, in Minnesota there are redevelopment projects occurring in close proximity where Site A has excess soils, and Site B requires additional soils. Depending on the characteristics of the fill soils, there is the hypothetical possibility to transfer regulated soils between the sites. There could be tremendous cost savings and reduced truck traffic realized in such a scenario.

Minnesota Brownfields has studied current redevelopment practices to measure the economic and environmental cost of dig and dump. Since 2015, Minnesota Brownfields has been meeting regularly with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) to consider policy revisions to allow regulated fill reuse at redevelopment sites, if certain conditions are met to ensure protection of human health and the environment. Those who work in redevelopment know that MPCA already has a policy in place to enable regulated fill reuse. Without liability protection, the policy — though well-intended — just hasn’t been used. So the current discussion is focused on providing liability protection for both the exporting and importing site. While we aren’t there yet, a change to MN Statutes is being considered to address this issue.

Want to learn more? Read more about our soil reuse study here. Or join us on Tuesday, July 18 at the State of Brownfields Update in Minneapolis, where Amy Hadiaris of MPCA and attorney Sara Peterson will present potential policy and changes. To learn more about how soil reuse works elsewhere in the world, attend the EPA Brownfields Conference December 5-7 in Pittsburgh, where Sara Peterson will moderate a panel discussion with representatives from the United Kingdom and Province of Ontario.

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









Community Conversations: West Side Flats Greenway

On Tuesday, the first community meeting for the West Side Flats Greenway took place at the Neighborhood House/Wellstone Center in St. Paul. Attendees were greeted by project members and asked to participate in a number of activities relevant to the planning process. People were asked to write about what they saw for the space in ten years and to vote on their ideal space designs. With this process there were pictures of various gathering space concepts, water features, park types, bench styles, and activities displayed where each person voted for their two favorites in each category.

The theme of community input was apparent throughout the meeting and was especially salient because the green space is all about designing for function and amenity.

The West Side Flats Study Area is approximately 120 acres and is located directly across the Mississippi River from downtown Saint Paul; situated between the river, Plato Boulevard, Wabasha Street, and Lafayette Road. The proposed Greenway is located along a working rail line that divides the Study Area.

The Study Area was funded through multiple grants including U.S. EPA Brownfields Areawide Planning. Through this grant, Minnesota Brownfields was brought on as a partner to help inform the community about the role of brownfields in redevelopment planning for the West Side Flats. The Areawide grant  enables planners to assess not just the proposed study area but the area around it for an expanded, holistic, next-gen approach to planning. The site of the Greenway has soil contamination in the form of unregulated fill (cinders, brick, black top, and sand) which is not toxic along with a small area of arsenic cleanup.

Throughout the presentations there was a theme of returning back to the Flats as the immigrant population that once lived there was removed due to flooding. The vision for the West Side Flats is a mixed use urban village for all with the Greenway as the most prominent green space in the neighborhood. The Greenway will be part of a larger amenity complex with connections to a river walk and bike trails to make the park a multiuse amenity for residents.westsideflatsvote

However, there are a number of challenges that come with this project as well, the most important being the creative use of limited space. The area for the Greenway will not just be a park but a stormwater management site. There will be a stormwater pond to protect the area which is designed to withstand five year floods while also being a stormwater treatment area. Making this limited space a successful water management system and an appealing park able to support a large population is further compounded by the presence of the railroad and the existence of utilities that cannot be built on or have trees on as access is still needed. These challenges are daunting but involving community in the design process will help the community understand the process.

The West Side Flats Greenway is using a stacked-function green infrastructure concept where private property owners are partnering with the City of Saint Paul to use green design to manage stormwater runoff, reduce sewer overflows, and improve water quality. Barr Engineering is coordinating master planning for the stormwater functions of the Greenway. The City itself is implementing the process in a different way as the maintenance, operation, and assessment of the site is being done through multiple department partnerships instead of one department and is a learning process for all.

This meeting was all about helping the community understand the potential for the space along with the challenges that come along with it. Minnesota Brownfields was on hand to give insights into how projects like this have been handled in the past and what kinds of remediation need to be done at this area in particular. The next community meeting will be in 6 to 8 weeks where Barr Engineering will bring in proposals for the community to learn about and discuss.

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

New Paper & Fact Sheets Highlight Economic, Environmental, and Social Benefits of Brownfield Redevelopment in Minnesota


Contact: Natalie Brown
Program Coordinator
Minnesota Brownfields

SAINT PAUL, MINN.—(April 22, 2015)—A newly-published report by Minnesota Brownfields, Benefits of Brownfield Redevelopment shares how redevelopment of idled, contaminated commercial industrial properties can lead Minnesota’s communities to economic growth and community revitalization while improving the environment. Three fact sheets summarize the work.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency defines brownfields 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”. A total of 77,502 acres (or 121 square miles) have been enrolled in Minnesota Pollution Control Agency programs since 1995, an area greater than the combined area of the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul (114 square miles). Despite this progress, Minnesota Brownfields conservatively estimates that at least 10,000 brownfield sites remain in Minnesota, concentrated in urban areas but found in nearly every community throughout the state. The report shows that redeveloping brownfields creates and retains jobs, increases local tax base, and enables efficient reuse of existing infrastructure.

Substantial environmental benefits result from reusing brownfield properties. Brownfield redevelopment reduces transportation-related vehicle miles travelled, greenhouse gas emissions per capita by 20-57% relative to conventional greenfield development. Redevelopment projects also produce substantially less stormwater runoff, and reduce air emissions by 32-57% relative to greenfield developments.

Finally, brownfield sites allow Minnesota’s communities to respond to increasing market preference by millennials, baby boomers, and seniors for vibrant, walkable communities with transportation choices, jobs, and urban amenities. “Minnesota has long been a leader in recycling brownfields for new uses while protecting the environment. We have a fantastic opportunity now to re-purpose contaminated sites into new housing, jobs, and greenspace to meet the needs of tomorrow’s residents and workers”, said Martha Faust, Executive Director of Minnesota Brownfields.



About Minnesota Brownfields:

Minnesota Brownfields is a 501-c3 nonprofit organization. Founded in 2006, its mission is to promote, through education, research, and partnerships, the efficient cleanup of brownfield redevelopment as a means of generating economic growth, strengthening communities and enabling sustainable land use and development.

2015 EPA Brownfields Conference Announcing Sessions Soon

About 60 redevelopment professionals gathered in Washington, DC last week to review abstracts for the 2015 EPA Brownfields Conference.  I joined a small group in the Creating More Sustainable Communities track. Our group was impressed by excellent proposals from around the country spanning topics ranging from climate change, to green infrastructure, renewable energy, public benefit reuse, urban agriculture, and smart growth. It made our work more challenging, but in the end I think we came up with a strong list of offerings. And it was a great networking opportunity for Minnesota Brownfields.

The EPA will soon announce selected sessions within the next month. If your organization is considering purchasing an exhibit booth, please do so soon. Given the smaller conference venue, exhibit space and hotel rooms are expected to fill up quickly. Natalie Brown and I are now registered to attend the conference.  Are you?

Request for Qualifications- Hennepin County ERF Brownfields Gap Financing Program

View the Request for Qualifications here.

Minnesota Brownfields requests qualifications and fee schedules from environmental consulting firms for the assessment and cleanup of properties known or suspected of being impacted by pollutants, contaminants, or hazardous waste. Requests will be considered from companies that have an executed Master Agreement for Professional Consulting Services with Hennepin County for the work types Asbestos, Lead Paint, and Regulated Building Materials Assessment and Removal Oversight, and/or Environmental Property Assessment and Cleanup; and are a member of Minnesota Brownfields.

The Brownfield Gap Financing Program (BGFP) provides small grants to nonprofits for environmental assessment and clean-up of property in Hennepin County through funding from the Environmental Response Fund (ERF). This fund is intended to assist projects that will benefit the community through the development or clean-up of greenspace, recreation centers, affordable housing, education centers, community centers, and neighborhood level economic development opportunities.

More information about the BGFP and past project examples can be found here.

Requests must be submitted by 12:00 noon on Thursday, March 5th. See the RFQ for more submittal details.

EPA Brownfields 2015 Conference

Brownfields 2015 will be held in Chicago September 2-4, 2015.   I attended a local planning committee meeting in Chicago on November 12 along with 70 other representatives from throughout EPA Region V.  What I learned:

  • Downtown Chicago will be center-stage with conference sessions split between the Hilton Chicago and the nearby Palmer House Hilton.  The Hilton Chicago has 5200 rooms (hint: don’t wait to book your room).  Hotel info will be available in December.
  • Regardless of conference location, Region V sends more attendees than any other EPA Region (yay, Region V!).
  • The highest EPA Brownfields conference attendance was in Detroit in 2009 (7000+ attendees).
  • 500-600 conference session ideas are expected by the December 8 deadline.  Learn more here.
  • The 2015 conference will feature more educational sessions than ever.  Mobile workshops will all occur on September 1.

With the spectacular City of Chicago as a backdrop, it should be a great conference.  To learn more, visit the EPA Brownfields 2015 conference website.

ReScape Award Finalists Announced for 2014

Twelve finalists were selected by panels of independent judges for the 2014 Minnesota Brownfield ReScape Awards. Winners will be announced at the awards ceremony on Thursday, October 23rd.