5 Things to Know about Vapor Intrusion, Your Home, and Your Health


Vapor Intrusion, or VI, occurs when contamination beneath the ground emits toxic vapors that can travel through the soil and enter the interior spaces of houses and buildings. The types of contamination most commonly associated with VI concerns are industrial solvents like chlorinated volatile organic compounds (CVOCs), and petroleum products like gasoline.  The Environmental Protection Agency just released final guidance on vapor intrusion issues, which regulates how inhalation exposures from VI are assessed and controlled.

There has been a great deal of concern in recent years about the potential for harmful health effects related to VI exposure, and many people are unintentionally involved.  In turn, there has been a lot of concern from those who hold legal liability for the contamination, even if they didn’t cause it.  Every day, it seems, a new VI case emerges where one or more homeowner learns that they and their family may have been exposed in the past, or are now being exposed, to harmful vapors from contamination.  Even commercial buildings and strip malls can be subject to VI.  The affected buildings are typically located near, but not necessarily adjacent, to current or historical drycleaning facilities, factories, or gas stations.  If you own a home or building located near a commercial corridor or close to a manufacturing area, you may wonder if VI is a problem at your home.  Here are 5 things to consider when you ask that question and contemplate the potential answer.

When looking around your home or building to determine if it’s located near a potential source of harmful vapors, keep in mind that vapors travel in the subsurface.  They move within the open, air-filled spaces in the soils above the water table.  There are many scientific factors and variables that affect the direction and extent to which vapors move.  As such, it’s problematic to predict.  Generally, many regulatory agencies use a rule of thumb whereby if a structure is within a 100-foot radius of a release of volatile contaminants, it should be further assessed for potential VI issues.

Just because there isn’t a gas station or dry cleaner near you now, it doesn’t mean that one didn’t used to be there. Commercial and industrial properties are being bought and sold on a daily basis, and individual commercial tenants come and go. Especially in busy traffic corridors that pass through residential parts of town. As a result, there may be no indication that a dry cleaner operated in your corner strip mall for 20 years, and then moved out 10 years ago. Also, you can probably expect that in older parts of town, just about every corner of a busy traffic intersection accommodated a petroleum gas station at some point in history. There are ways of learning about the commercial history and land transfer records at local libraries. An individual can go find the City Directories and look it up.  There are also commercially available sources of this data for wider real estate uses.

Although the scientific study of how vapors of different industrial origins move within the subsurface is still developing, and the health effects related to breathing them are still under evaluation, the federal, state and local environmental regulatory agencies are very keyed-in to identifying sites with potential VI issues. If a commercial property transaction results in the knowledge that past use included an activity that may have potentially resulted in contamination, it is most often confirmed or denied through the collection and analysis of soil and groundwater samples. If contamination is identified, the state environmental regulatory agency is notified.  The responsible party for the contamination then is required to begin the process of investigating the extent of the impacts and finding who may be exposed to the contamination. The potential for VI is being watched very closely by the agencies. So it is possible, and probably a good idea, to contact your state environmental regulatory agency to inquire if there are any active contamination investigations or cleanups occurring in your vicinity. Their websites may actually have interactive maps or searchable databases where you can find this information on your own. If there is a site in your neighborhood and your structure is within 100 feet of it, you can likely expect a request to for sampling. The best way to know if there is a concern is to let the environmental professionals do their job.  Be sure to put in your access agreement that they’ll let you have the results.

The health effects related to the inhalation of vapors from industrial contamination are still being evaluated.  The exact amount of individual chemicals that are “safe” to breathe is not yet known.  By using overly conservative toxicological factors, and by overestimating the amount of chemicals that individuals may be exposed to, the agencies have developed a set of “screening criteria” to frame exposure.  The goal is to overestimate the potential for harmful effects of VI exposure, and therein addressed and eliminated every actual exposure scenario. The reality for occupants of commercial or residential buildings who are breathing contaminated air, is that the health-based screening level communicated to you is not actually the level at which your health will be immediately harmed. That doesn’t mean that you have to continue breathing it, but there is no need to panic.

In many parts of the country, radioactive radon gas is constantly emanating from decaying rocks and soils. Radon comes into contact with occupied structures and is subsequently breathed by people. This is exactly the same process as VI from contaminant sources. The process of determining if radon is present in private homes has been part of the residential real estate process for many years.  As such, many more people are familiar with radon than VI. The good news is that if your home or commercial building has a radon mitigation system already installed and in operation, you may be protected from subsurface VI concerns. Typically, however, mitigation systems designed for VI from industrial chemicals are more robust.

For more information on Vapor Intrusion and Mitigation, contact us for a confidential consultation. 


EnviroForensics Team Members Taking on MSECA And NAWIC Leadership Roles

We’re proud to announce that two of our team leaders, Morgan Saltsgiver, LPG, Director of Brownfields and Agribusiness, and Megan Hamilton, Director of Vapor Intrusion and Mitigation Services, have accepted leadership roles with professional industrial associations.

Morgan saltsgiver headshot

Saltsgiver who leads our Brownfields Development and Agribusiness efforts has been elected as Treasurer of the Midwestern States Environmental Consultants Association (MSECA) and is taking on the same role with the Indianapolis Chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) Board.


Megan Hamilton headshot

Hamilton, who heads our Vapor Intrusion and Mitigation efforts, is retaining her position with the MSECA Board of Directors as Consultant Member Director.



We’re leaders in cutting edge environmental consulting and advancing the scientific technological practices of our industry. We believe our continual involvement in these groups will further strengthen our company and holistically push the environmental community forward. 

Learn more about the two organizations:


midwestern states environmental consultants association logoMidwestern States Environmental Consultants Association (MSECA)

The Midwestern State Environmental Consultants Association is an organization that works to advance the field of environmental consulting by providing professional development opportunities for its members through education and industry updates related to technical                                         developments, regulations, training and codes.

national association of women in construction logoNational Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC)

The National Association of Women in Construction works to advance educational and professional development opportunities for women in construction through a nationwide network.



With a passion for storytelling, Alex Miller is EnviroForensics’ Marketing Coordinator leading social media and news reporting. Before joining EnviroForensics, Alex spent four years in television news where he worked for local ABC and NBC affiliates in Fort Wayne and Indianapolis producing morning and weekend newscasts. He loves keeping up with politics, pop culture, graphic design, photography and community enrichment.

The Brownfields Redevelopment Glossary

In the Brownfields redevelopment world, there’s number of keywords and acronyms used throughout the process–from the planning stage to ribbon-cutting stage. We’ve compiled an extensive glossary of commonly used words, so that you can know the industry lingo and can be a Brownfields redevelopment pro.

Use the links below to navigate throughout the page.

All Appropriate Inquiry (AAI) – A process of evaluating the historic and current usage and environmental conditions of a property to assess potential liability.  This is usually completed during the purchase or sale of a property.

Abandonment – This happens when a property owner suddenly stops using the property, leaves it vacant, and doesn’t sell it or give it to anyone to resume use.

“As is” Sale – The transfer of a property to a buyer with no promises, assurances, or representations by the property owner about the conditions of the property.

Aboveground Storage Tank (AST) – A tank that commonly stores chemicals like petroleum and is subjected to strict spill prevention regulations due to the potential danger of its contents to affect human health and the environment.

Activity and Use Limitation (AUL) – This institutional control is intended to reduce the time a human comes into contact with a contamination by putting restrictions on how the contaminated property can be reused.

Brownfields Advisory Committee (BAC) – This is a group of stakeholders, including members of the municipality, the community, and the developers  who work to provide grant funding to Brownfields redevelopment sites in their area.

Bluefields – Real estate term to describe a property that is either itself a body of water, or is directly adjacent to a body of water.  

Bona Fide Prospective Purchaser (BFPP) – A landowner that knowingly or has reason to know purchases a contaminated property and through the process of the environmental due diligence process (Phase I ESAs, etc.) can establish liability protection from being responsible for the contamination.  A very stringent set of steps are required to establish BFPP status and there are ongoing requirements to maintain this status even after environmental cleanup is complete.

Brownfield –  An industrial or commercial property that is either abandoned, unused, or underused due in part to the presence or perceived presence of environmental contamination.

Certificate of Completion –  This is written verification from a state regulatory agency stating the site has been remediated to satisfactory standards. In some states, this certificate provides the property owner with protection from being sued; however, in most states, a property owner will need to obtain a covenant not to sue to protect them from legal liability.

Cleanup Approval LetterSee Certificate of Completion

Clean Water Act (CWA) – This law was enacted in 1972 and regulates the amount of pollutants permitted to be discharged into US waterways.

Community Advisory Group (CAG) – A group of people who live in or close to a Superfund site and are involved in decisions regarding the cleanup. See Superfund Site

Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) – A type of grant that provides money and other resources to address a variety of community development needs, including upgrading building facades, creating public spaces, and addressing infrastructure needs. The CDBG is one of the longest running programs at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Comfort Letter – A letter issued by the state regulatory agency to a property owner who is affected by, but is not responsible for environmental contamination on their property. The letter establishes liability protection for the property owner. This letter does not typically provide protection from legal suits.

Commercial General Liability (CGL) Insurance Policy – This insurance policy provides coverage to businesses and can defend and indemnify policyholders against claims, such as environmental property damage claims, product liability claims, and claims against employees. See how Commercial General Liability (CGL) Insurance policies work.

Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) –  This Act provides federal funding to state or local agencies to clean up large contaminations in particular areas. It also empowers the EPA to seek out Potentially Responsible Parties (PRPs) and assure their cooperation in the cleanup. Notifications from the EPA under CERCLA can trigger an insurance carrier’s duty to defend.

Confidential Insurance Archeology® – This is a service provided by PolicyFind, a division of EnviroForensics, that restores financial viability to contaminated properties by conducting searches for historical insurance that may cover costs associated with contamination. See Historical Insurance

Contaminated Media Management Plan (CMMP) – This documentation, prepared by an environmental consultant, provides information needed to identify and properly manage impacted media at a particular site.

Contaminant of Emerging Concern (CEC) – This is a chemical that may cause harm to human health, but effects are not fully understood yet. The EPA typically takes the lead on the evaluation of these chemicals to establish cleanup levels if necessary.

Community Development Corporations (CDCs) – These are local non-profit groups that work to promote and advocate for urban redevelopment projects.

Eminent Domain Condemnation – This is a legal process that allows the government to acquire the title of a property in order to do something with it for the public good. Condemnation can lead to demolition, environmental cleanup, or a number of other solutions that move the property closer to reuse.

Contractor Certification – This process ensures that contractors meet a certain set of standards and are approved to perform specific tasks.

Contractor-Certified Cleanup – When a state allows private contractors to make cleanup decisions on behalf of the state. Only a small number of states have this cleanup process in place as of June 2018.  

Contribution Action –  When the person or persons identified to be responsible for a contamination take legal action against other liable parties to pay for their share of an environmental cleanup.

Corrective Action – This is the process used to clean up contamination at hazardous chemical treatment, storage, and disposal facilities. This is regulated under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).

Covenant Not to Sue – This is a written promise by a state government that it will not sue or require further cleanup efforts from a party that has satisfactorily cleaned up their property under a state Brownfields or voluntary cleanup program.

Deed Restriction – This puts limitations on how a property can be used. It appears on the deed to the property.  

Due Diligence – This is a thorough evaluation of the environmental conditions of a property. Banks require this during a real estate transaction to ensure they are protected from taking on the liability of a potential existing environmental issue.

Easement – This is the right to use or limit the use of someone else’s property.

Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA) – This act requires companies that handle hazardous chemicals to have contingency plans for emergencies, and increases public access to information about chemicals at individual facilities

Engineering Controls – These are physical barriers that are put in place to prevent people from coming in contact with a contamination. Examples: Fences, pavement, clay caps on contaminated soil.

Enforcement of Compliance History Online (ECHO) – This is a directory managed by the EPA that provides compliance monitoring, enforcement, and demographic data on thousands of actively regulated sites across the country.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – Federal agency responsible for the protection of  human health and the environment.

Environmental Assessment – A site investigation conducted to determine the extent, if any, of contamination on a property. They consist of two stages, including Phase I and Phase II.

Environmental Insurance –  This is a type of insurance that a person can buy to protect themselves from the financial costs that can come from a lawsuit related to an environmental issue on their property.

Environmental Liability – A probable, measurable, and reasonably estimable future expenditure of resources for environmental investigation and cleanup costs resulting from past transactions or events.

Environmental Remediation – This step in the environmental clean-up process removes pollution or contaminants from soil, groundwater, sediment, and/or surface water.

Exaction –  When a local government asks a developer for payment or some sort of concession on a project that serves the public good, like the construction of a sidewalk on land that will be developed.

Foreclosure – This happens when a mortgage lender takes possession of a property because the borrower can’t keep up with their payments.

Feasibility Study (FS) – This is a summary of a site’s contamination, remediation recommendations, and potential reuse.

Greenfield – A property that has no previous development, and therefore does not have an institutional restrictions placed on it.

Heating Oil Tank (HOT) – This is either an aboveground storage tank (AST) or an underground storage tank (UST) that stores oil that powers the furnace of a home.

Hazardous Substance Data Bank (HSDB) – This is a database of chemicals that can cause harm to human health.

Hard Costs –  In a construction project, these are the costs associated with the physical construction of the building and any equipment that is fixed.

Historical Insurance – This is a former policy or evidence of a former policy. See Commercial General Liability (CGL) Insurance Policy

Hot Spots – Specific areas at a project site where the level of contamination is very high.

Indemnification – What a commercial general liability policy does for its policyholder. It’s an agreement between the insurance carrier and the policyholder that the carrier will bear the costs for damages or losses incurred by the policyholder.

Independent Cleanup Program (ICP) – A state regulated program where the consultant provides oversight and certification of the cleanup of environmental contamination to expedite the process. This type of program is not available in all states.

Integrated Data for Enforcement Analysis (IDEA) – The environmental performance data for EPA-regulated sites.

Infill Development – The process of developing a vacant parcel in an urban setting surrounded by development.

Infrastructure – The streets, sidewalks, electrical and water utilities, and other public amenities that allow a society to function

Institutional Controls – The legal restriction put in place to reduce human interaction with an existing chemical contamination by limiting the use of a property. Examples include: Deed Restrictions, Easements, Warning Signs and Notices, and Zoning Restrictions.

Insurance Archeologist – An expert at identifying and locating lost liability insurance policies and assets that can be used to defend or indemnify policyholders against claims.

Insurance Archeology – The practice of retracing historical insurance coverage to identify past owners and operators of companies. See Historical Insurance

Insurer – The person or entity that enters into an agreement with a policyholder to protect the policyholder from potential expenses associated with injury.

Land Disposal Restrictions (LDR) – An EPA program that sets guidelines treating hazardous waste order for it to be safe enough to discard in a landfill.

Landowner Liability Protection (LLP) – Legal protections for people who own Brownfields properties.

Liability Relief or Liability Release – This is an official document that prohibits a lawsuit against a company responsible for environmental contamination. This order can be used as an incentive to compel the responsible party to clean up the contamination. Examples include: Covenant Not to Sue, No Further Action (NFA) Letter

Long-term Stewardship – This is a long-term view for environmental remediation on sites, which brings financial and environmental stewardship into the remediation planning stages.

Maximum Allowable Soil Concentration – Standard for the highest concentration of heavy metals in soil that’s still safe for human exposure.

Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) – The maximum amount of a contaminant allowed in public drinking water as set by the EPA and regulated by the Clean Drinking Water Act.

Monitoring Well (MW) –  This is a hole in the ground from which environmental professionals can collect groundwater samples.

National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) – This is a program under the Clean Drinking Water Act that regulates chemical discharges from the source area.

National Priorities List (NPL) – This is the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) list of the most serious hazardous chemical releases. It’s a guide for the agency to determine which sites need further investigation and more resources dedicated to address the contamination.

Natural Resource Damages – This is contamination that causes harm to any natural resource including land, fish, wildlife, air, water, groundwater, drinking water supplies, and other resources.

No-Further-Action (NFA) Letter – This is a letter from a state regulatory agency  that says it will not pursue any further legal action against a party because that party has satisfactorily cleaned up their property.

No Further Remedial Action Planned (NFRAP) – This is a declaration from the EPA that no further remediation efforts are needed at a site under CERCLA.

Notice of Violation (NOV) – This is a notice that informs the recipient that the EPA believes they have committe one or more violations, and directs them work towards compliance.

Nonresidential Use Standard – This is the amount of a chemical that is considered safe for human exposure at a nonresidential property. Nonresidential standards tend to be more relaxed because people are only inhabiting these buildings for a small portion of the day during business hours.

Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA) – A law that works to prevent oil spills by enforcing the removal of the oil from the contamination site and assigning liability to the responsible party.

Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation (OSRTI) – This is the office at the EPA that manages the Superfund program.

Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (OSWER) – This office provides policy, guidance and direction for the EPA’s emergency response and waste programs.

Office of Underground Storage Tanks (OUST) – Office at the EPA that manages the guidance and direction for oversight of Underground Storage Tanks.

Preliminary Assessment (PA) – A very elementary review of a known or suspected contamination site.

Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) – A site investigation conducted by an Environmental Professional to learn the current and past history of a property, and determine the possibility of a Recognized Environmental Condition (REC).

Phase II ESA – If it is determined that a REC may be present on a property, a Phase II Environmental Assessment is recommended. This involves soil and groundwater sampling at the property to confirm the presence of contamination.

Policyholder – Person or entity that enters into an agreement with the insurer that says the insurer will protect the policyholder from expenses associated with injury.

Potentially Responsible Party (PRP) – People, companies, or any other organizations that may be responsible for a chemical release at a Superfund site, and may be liable to pay for cleanup costs.

Preliminary Assessment (PA) – This is a very elementary review of a known or suspected contamination site.

Preliminary Remediation Goal (PRG) – Goal to bring concentration of a chemical down to the point that any residual impacts will be within an established standard of acceptability.

Tetrachloroethylene (PERC or PCE) – This is a manufactured chemical commonly used in dry cleaning and in degreasing mechanical equipment.

Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCB) – A toxic chemical that was once used to insulate electrical transformers, capacitors, and other utility lines. The use of PCB was banned in 1979.

Potential Responsible Party (PRP) – These are the individuals, companies, and organizations that may be responsible for a chemical contamination, and may be compelled to pay for cleanup efforts.

Pro Forma – In a real estate project, this is a carefully calculated estimate of the financial return that proposed real estate project is likely to generate.

Prospective Purchaser Agreement (PPA) – This is an agreement between the government and a prospective buyer of a Superfund site that protects the prospective buyer from certain liabilities for contamination that is already on the site. This agreement normally comes with a promise from prospective buyer to provide something of substantial public benefit.

Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP) – This is an outline written up during the due diligence and environmental cleanup process  that states the project objectives and monitoring parameters.

Remedial Action (RA) – This phrase encompasses all efforts to clean up a site including the construction of systems and/or in situ exercises.

Remedial Action Operation (RAO) – Any operation, maintenance, or monitoring in support of the Remediation Action.

Risk Based Corrective Action (RBCA) –   The strategy of cleaning up based on the risk to human health and pushing towards closure using appropriate levels of action and oversight.

Reopener Provisions – These agreements allow the government the right to require further cleanup if a previously unknown contamination is discovered or the remaining contamination is more toxic than originally believed.

Representations and Warranties – Representations are the basic underlying facts in contract law. The Warranties are the promises that a seller makes to a buyer assuring the factuality of the representations about the good being sold.

Request-for-Proposals (RFPs) – This is a document that is put out by a state agency asking developers for their qualifications and credentials and as well as project-specific plans.

Residential Use Standard – This is the amount of a chemical that is considered safe for human exposure in a residential building. Residential standards are the strictest use standards, and if a property passes these standards it can typically be reused for any purpose.

Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) – This Act regulates the generation, transportation, storage, treatment and disposal of hazardous waste.

Restrictive Covenant – A specific type of deed restriction that prohibits the use certain parts of a property to reduce human exposure to existing contamination.

Risk Assessment – An evaluation of a property that identifies the potential harm an existing contamination will have on human health.

Running With the Land – The rights and obligations attached to the land that remain the same regardless of ownership.

Site Investigation – The practice of sampling soil, groundwater,  to determine the presence and extent of a chemical contamination.

Site Status Letter – A letter issued by the state regulatory agency to a party responsible for an environmental cleanup that the levels of contamination substantially meet screening levels and that the agency does not anticipate enforcement action against the responsible party.

Soft Costs – In a construction project, these are the costs associated with project planning, including architectural, engineering, administrative, legal, and design activities.

Superfund – Formally known as CERCLA, this fund was established by the US EPA to pay for large, long-term cleanup projects. The parties responsible for the contamination are ultimately required to either cleanup the contamination or reimburse the government for EPA-led cleanup work.

Tax Increment Financing (TIF) – This allows local governments to use future projected tax revenue to finance current infrastructure projects.

Tax Credits – This is an incentive for a large corporation to develop in a local municipality in exchange for a break on their property taxes.

Toxic Tort Action – A lawsuit brought against a company that seeks damages for an exposure to a hazardous substance.

Uncertainty Premium – The amount a buyer subtracts from the purchase price to reflect the risk of unexpected environmental assessment and cleanup costs.

Use Permit – A type of variance that authorizes an otherwise unacceptable use on a property without changing its zoning.

Variance – This is a mechanism that allows a property owner to use their property for something other than what the zoning ordinance permits.

Voluntary Cleanups – Cleanups of identified contamination that are not court or agency ordered. Most states have voluntary programs that encourage voluntary cleanups and that may provide benefits if volunteers meet specified standards.

It’s estimated that there are over 450,000 Brownfields across the United States, and while Brownfields redevelopment can be a lengthy and complex process, with the right team you can speed up the process and stay on track by turning environmental liabilities into assets®.

Contact us today.

A Roadmap for Brownfields Redevelopment Success


A successful Brownfields redevelopment project doesn’t just happen by chance – well-designed and strategic projects often take months if not years of planning and design. A Brownfields project also needs the right project team in place – secure the developer’s creativity, the municipality’s leverage, the community’s collaboration, and the property owner’s consent and you’re well on your way toward a flourishing Brownfields redevelopment project. Finally, beware of environmental liabilities that can often become roadblocks or even throw projects off-track entirely.

This article walks you through the Brownfields redevelopment planning process to help you find your own roadmap for success, and will prepare you for what to expect if environmental issues are discovered during the planning process.

Let’s start with understanding the Brownfields project’s key players.  

Often called the “stakeholders” of the project, these are the individuals, companies, municipalities, and communities who rally together for the common cause of the project. Each stakeholder plays a different role and adds a unique perspective to the process.

Here’s a list of the key players, their roles, and how and when they fit into the redevelopment planning:

Property Owner

A property owner encompasses the term for the actual owner or the potential owner of the property being considered for redevelopment. The owner can be a public, private, municipal, not-for-profit, or (sometimes) an unknown entity. The property owner’s involvement from the first days of planning will help ensure a smooth redevelopment process.


Local Government Agencies

The local, regional, and state governing bodies have a vested interest in the redevelopment of a Brownfields property – bringing an underutilized property into use or back into reuse can provide them with a renewed tax base and a revitalized community. They can assist with securing local funding sources, loans, and tax credits to enhance the potential for the redevelopment project.  


Economic Redevelopment Groups

Local and regional economic groups may be involved with Brownfields redevelopment projects from the first planning meeting. They can provide valuable guidance, grant funding assistance, and experience to help the project meet its goals. This group ultimately finds benefit from the creation or growth of jobs and other economic factors after a redevelopment project is completed.


Community and Neighborhood Groups

Community-based organizations play an important role in the redevelopment process of a Brownfields property. They serve as the voice of the community poised to gain from the project, and ultimately want to see the neighborhoods where they live and work thrive.


Lenders and Financial Groups

Depending on the redevelopment plan, financing might need to be secured through private lenders or investment groups. These key players also want to see a successful project through to completion for community and financial reasons.



The developer often serves as the glue that can help generate and implement the vision for the project’s redevelopment plans. Developers work with the other project stakeholders from the project planning stages to ensure the final concept comes to fruition.


Environmental Consultants

An environmental consultant wears many hats during the Brownfields redevelopment process:

  • Assisting the owner with their liability protection needs, also known as due diligence
  • Identifying sources of financing
  • Working with stakeholders to establish and implement an environmental clean up plan that serves the needs of future redevelopment
  • Assisting with the owner’s continuing obligations once the project is complete

Bringing in an experienced environmental consultant at the beginning of your project can help prepare cities and communities and be a recipe for success.

Tip: Strong coordination between the key players is an important step in the success of a Brownfields redevelopment project.

Now that we have our key players defined, let’s get ready to hit the road toward a successful project!

There is not one recipe or redevelopment plan that will suit everyone’s or every project’s needs. There are however, a few fundamental steps in the Brownfields planning process that when paired with the right stakeholders and the right economic environment, projects can lead to productive outcomes for cities and communities.

Step 1: Vision to Develop Brownfields Site
The redevelopment planning process begins with a spark: a stakeholder sees the potential to turn a Brownfields project into a thriving property. This vision leads to a discussion and the engagement of various stakeholders, and before you know it, the process is ready to start. It is important at this beginning stage to establish the project framework: what are the property reuse goals, what are the zoning restrictions, can they be changed, and how will the project be received by the community? The answers to these framework questions will help guide the next steps of the process.

Step 2: The Review – Doing Your Due Diligence
The next step typically involves performing due diligence through Phase I and Phase II Environmental Site Assessments (ESAs) on the property to provide the stakeholders with valuable information regarding the current and historical environmental conditions and ownership status of the site. The ESA and additional investigations will help identify the presence and magnitude of environmental concerns, and if certain criteria are met, the ESA can ultimately be used to protect the owner and other stakeholders from liability associated with these environmental concerns.

Step 3: Financing – Funding Your Redevelopment Vision
The final and perhaps most important step in the planning process is locating and securing funding for the project. Typically, the planning and construction costs for a redevelopment project are anticipated and be secured from privately-funded or lender sources, but the costs for the cleanup of environmental contamination cannot be taken into account until after due diligence is completed.

Once the cleanup costs are established, a common way to partially pay for these environmental services needed to bring a Brownfields site back to life is through local, state, and federal grant and loan funding; however, even if a project is awarded a grant or loan, those funds come with restrictions and can run out before any meaningful progress is made towards revitalization of the property.

What’s typically missing from a Brownfields Funding Plan is an insurance archeology strategy. PolicyFind, a division of EnviroForensics, locates historical Commercial General Liability insurance policies as a funding source to ensure that the resources needed to complete the investigation and cleanup of a redevelopment project are sufficient and accessible.

Here’s what historical Commercial General Liability policies can be used to fund:

Insurance archeology can recover historical insurance coverage, which can pay for environmental investigation and remediation efforts, and legal counsel costs. Read more about how insurance archeology and CGL policies work.

Tip: Visit EnviroForensics’ insurance archeology services and fill out the form for more information.

Once the key components are assembled and the process has been reviewed by all stakeholders, it’s time to get underway.

Tip: It’s important that all environmental cleanup and construction activities are carefully planned as described above, and that all stakeholders are in agreement with the plan in the beginning and throughout the entire redevelopment process.

This process is very time-sensitive and delays may cause overall increases in redevelopment costs.

Step 1: The Environmental Cleanup
Typically during this phase of the project, the Brownfields property is prepared for redevelopment by implementing the selected environmental cleanup activity. Whether through traditional methods such as:

Soil Excavation

Soil excavator removing contaminated soil from environmental cleanup site.
Soil excavator removing contaminated soil from environmental cleanup site.


Engineered methods such as active soil and groundwater remediation systems

Conduit tubes buried underground for a Soil Vapor Extraction (SVE) System
Conduit tubes buried underground for a Soil Vapor Extraction (SVE) System

In-situ methods such as injection of microbes into the ground

Geoprobe drill used to inject remedial chemicals into ground for in-situ remediation.
Geoprobe drill used to inject remedial chemicals into ground for in-situ remediation.

Institutional controls such as property use restrictions

no trespassing sign
Institutional controls like land use restrictions enforced by the sign above can help reduce human interaction with a potential environmental hazard.


Innovative remediation design methods

Such as zero-valent iron the environmental contamination is removed or destroyed, or access to the contamination is limited to protect the future occupants of the property from exposure to it.

field professional overseeing mixing of remedial chemical
An EnviroForensics Field Engineer oversees the mixing of a remedial chemical, PlumeStop® by Regenesis

This is where EnviroForensics’ team of expert environmental scientists, geologists and engineers gets to work. Our experienced project managers and scientists then work hand-in-hand with the project stakeholders to make sure the remediation efforts are completed to the satisfaction of the stakeholders and that the property is ready for redevelopment.

Step 2: The Construction – Bringing Your Vision to Life
Construction activities can often be implemented at the same time as or shortly after the environmental cleanup work is performed. This is often the most exciting part of the process because it provides visible signs that the property is being developed through the construction or remodeling of onsite buildings.

Tip: Remember to keep all stakeholders engaged through the construction process – it can often be a dynamic and thrilling time for the project!

There may be ongoing responsibilities for the owner or tenants of the completed project, including vapor intrusion monitoring, remediation system operation, or other long-term stewardship efforts. These are often coordinated between the owner, the environmental consultant, and the regulatory agency to ensure that the occupants or users of the property will continue to be protected from exposed to any residual environmental contamination.

To learn about how a more aggressive cleanup can save you money in the long run, visit A Business Case Approach to Site Cleanup.

The road to a successful Brownfields redevelopment is a dynamic and exciting one – it’s essential that the key stakeholders are engaged and that the project goals are established during the early stages of planning to stay on course. Good planning by a well-experienced team can lead to a very rewarding project! This roadmap for Brownfields Redevelopment Success can be your guide.

For over 20 years, EnviroForensics has been turning environmental liabilities into assets®. We have the environmental expertise and knowledge of historical site coverage to partner strategically with businesses, Brownfields coordinators and developers. We help community leaders convert blighted properties into valuable community assets for redevelopment and provide better reuse planning options through long-term stewardship after the site is closed and developed. See how we applied our business model to the redevelopment of our own headquarters by reading How EnviroForensics Transformed a Brownfields Site into Their HQ.

Contact our Brownfields Redevelopment team today to see how we can revitalize your property and city.

Why Spending More Environmental Cleanup Dollars Now Is Smart for Business

When dealing with environmental issues, exposure control and regulatory closure are often seen as the end goals. After fully assessing current and future risk, it’s clear that regulatory closure should only be viewed as an interim milestone. When it comes to environmental liability, regulatory closure is seldom the end of the story. It’s often just an interim step in the process of protecting yourself from risk, communities from exposure, the environment from harm, and ensuring your new development is prosperous.

The various strategy options for eliminating exposure pathways and attaining regulatory closure can have vastly different costs when it comes to future liabilities, long-term stewardship (LTS), and Brownfields development.

This eBook Covers 

  • Why evaluating remedial efforts vs. long-term stewardship is smart for business
  • How point of exposure assessments helped identify where remedial and LTS program would be most effective
  • How spending more on active cleanup and relying less on long-term stewardship saved three business a combined savings of $1.595M

Download A Business Case Approach to Site Clean Up

picture of business case ebook cover


  • Too often environmental remediation strategies focus on short-term costs without factoring in requirements for proper long-term stewardship and the associated costs of implementation.
  • With recalcitrant compounds, such as perchloroethylene (PCE) and other chlorinated solvents, the threat of future exposure does not readily go away. If engineered or institutional controls fail, these lingering contaminants may present serious problems.
  • Proper cost-analysis takes all the factors into account so that you can find a balance between short-term and long-term costs and make decisions that are right for you.
  • By taking real costs into account it will be possible to find a well-informed balance between short-term and long-term expenditures that will help you maximize your potential savings.


Jeff Carnahan is a Licensed Professional Geologist (LPG) with over 20 years of environmental consulting and remediation experience and is currently serving EnviroForensics® and our clients as President. Jeff has contributed to the success and growth of EnviroForensics through strategic market analysis and corporate risk management, as well as encouraging and upholding the superior level of technical expertise found at EnviroForensics. Jeff focuses on controlling risk and costs to all of our clients. He has expertise in working with releases of chlorinated solvents and other industrial chemicals within voluntary and enforcement cleanup programs for various State agencies and the U.S. EPA. He has also been at the forefront of vapor intrusion exposure issues over the past 15 years by contributing to the scientific community nationwide, and by forming the EnviroForensics Vapor Intrusion Group of experts. Throughout his career Jeff has provided technical support to the legal community. He has served as a consulting and testifying expert regarding the cause, origin, timing, and cost of environmental releases, as well as cost-recovery claims on behalf of insurance policyholders. Jeff’s passion for redeveloping and re-using contaminated properties aligns with the company’s commitment to restoring environmentally impacted properties on behalf of our private and municipal clients.

Listen to Henshaw Talk With Local NPR Station About Investment in Northwest Indiana Community

For more than two decades, EnviroForensics has been helping dry cleaners and small business owners tackle their environmental liabilities while finding alternative funding sources to pay for cleanup, and now, EnviroForensics will be opening an office in Northwest Indiana.

CEO, Steve Henshaw, had the opportunity to talk about this exciting news with Lakeshore Public Radio, the local NPR station, and his vision to find new ways to fund environmental cleanups and stimulate economic development. 

Listen to the entire interview

“Our approach is to look and see if we can find some resources through old insurance policies, normal slip-and-fall type insurance policies, that didn’t have exclusions to these policies for contamination, or environmental pollution,” Henshaw told Chris Nolte, host of Regionally Speaking.

Learn more about CGL policies and how they can be used to fund environmental investigation and cleanup efforts.

While the majority of the company’s work has been with manufacturers and small business owners, Henshaw explained the practice of digging up old policies can also work for larger industrial sites and Brownfields projects that may be lying dormant in Northwest Indiana.

“A lot of these sites might be distressed, sitting there on the tax roll, but not in any kind of active productive use, so they aren’t really benefiting the community,” Henshaw said, referring to the underutilized or, in some cases abandoned, industrial facilities in Northwest Indiana.

“We can also assist municipalities at pursuing the same sort of options of finding these resources to pay for these very expensive long-tail liabilities.”

A large portion of the conversation centered on building a stronger relationship with the communities in the region. The goal isn’t just to have easier access to EnviroForensics’ current project sites. Henshaw says they’re also trying to become a more integral part of the community, by offering their services as a technical resource in good-faith to municipalities under budgetary restrictions, and staffing the office with a Northwest Indiana native who understands the ambitions and needs of the area.

“By having a local heading up that branch in Michele Murday, we’re very excited that this gives us a stronger foothold in the community itself,” Henshaw said.

To learn more about how EnviroForensics can help you revitalize your community visit Brownfields Development and fill out our form.

With a passion for storytelling, Alex Miller is EnviroForensics’ Marketing Coordinator leading social media and news reporting. Before joining EnviroForensics, Alex spent four years in television news where he worked for local ABC and NBC affiliates in Fort Wayne and Indianapolis producing morning and weekend newscasts. He loves keeping up with politics, pop culture, graphic design, photography and community enrichment.