TCEQ Program Bringing New Life to Abandoned Properties

Have you ever wondered what happens to abandoned gas stations, dry cleaning facilities, dumping sites, and other possibly contaminated properties across Texas? Here at TCEQ, our Brownfields Site Assessment Program (the Brownfields Program) is taking properties like this and assisting in the redevelopment and revitalization of these underutilized sites to help turn them back into socially and economically beneficial properties.

This is made possible by TCEQ working with entities such as non-profits, redevelopment agencies, economic development corporations, and governmental or quasi-governmental entities like local governments, city councils, and federally recognized tribes. These entities may apply to receive aid for the assessment of potentially contaminated land they are interested in redeveloping.

Since the program’s inception in 1997, more than 200 Brownfields have undergone assessment and/or remediation and redevelopment through the program, resulting in properties able to accommodate a light rail station, public library, art center, and multi-use developments, to name a few. These formerly contaminated and/or underutilized properties are now able to contribute to the social and economic health of communities.

According to Monica Harris, Deputy Director of Remediation in the Office of Waste, the Brownfields Program serves as a “springboard for redevelopment, by assessing sites to determine if there is any contamination.” Furthermore, the Brownfields Program also helps applicants through a process Harris calls “visioning,” aiding in planning and making effective use of these sites.

Harris states, “The Remediation Division has 9 [Brownfield] sites right now that are active” and “on any given day, TCEQ oversees more than 3,000 sites undergoing assessment and remediation.” These sites are being addressed under the Voluntary Cleanup (VCP), Corrective Action, Superfund, Petroleum Storage Tank, or Dry Cleaner Programs.

The Brownfields Program receives funding from a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency which includes funding for the assessment process. As part of the program, TCEQ staff oversees all assessment, field, and laboratory work, which is conducted by TCEQ contractors. Although not all sites are contaminated, many are underutilized.

For eligible applicants interested in participating in the program, the first step involves the application. From there, site assessments are conducted to decide the suitability of a property. The process typically starts with a Phase I Site Assessment. During this stage, TCEQ evaluates the property for contaminants and any “Recognized Environmental Conditions” (RECs). Harris states that Phase I Site Assessments provide a “holistic look at the previous uses of the property and surrounding areas.”

If contamination or RECs are found, and the applicant wishes to proceed, a Phase II Site Assessment is then conducted. According to Harris, this process primarily consists of soil and groundwater sampling and analysis. Some of the sites may continue to be addressed in other TCEQ programs, including through the VCP, and Harris says that “at the end of the VCP, applicants get issued a certificate of completion.”

These newly revitalized properties are now bringing added revenue, new jobs, and improving the quality of life of Texans. Through the Brownfields Program, TCEQ and our employees are giving back to communities throughout the state.