2017 U.S. EPA National Brownfields Training 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.