Tacoma conference will focus on brownfields clean-up projects

This month, the Washington Department of Ecology will host the state’s first-ever conference focusing on efforts to clean up sites that can be used to produce economic benefits.

The Brownfields and Land Revitalization Conference is scheduled Oct. 21 and 22 at the Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center, 1500 Broadway.

Brownfields are properties that can hinder redevelopment because they are, or are perceived to be, polluted with hazardous substances or contaminants. Such sites thwart economic development because of the stigma associated with contamination, which can repel potential investors. Brownfields also pose environmental and human health risks until they are cleaned up.

Cleaning up and redeveloping brownfields sites provides habitat restoration, spurs economic development and encourages sustainable (“green”) development.

In Washington, state and local agencies work together to help local governments, property owners and developers to return brownfields to a useful purpose. These agencies — Dept. of Ecology, the cities of Seattle, Spokane and Tacoma, King County and the Washington Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development — assist with logistics and funding.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides money for a brownfields revolving loan program and for annual grants to local governments and non-profit groups for site assessment and cleanups.

“Our goal for the conference is to bring all stakeholders together to talk about how we can continue working to integrate cleanup with land-use planning,” said John Means, who helps lead Ecology’s brownfields work.

Scheduled speakers include Ecology Director Jay Manning, Tacoma Mayor Bill Baarsma and Elin Miller, EPA’s Region 10 administrator. Presentations will include discussions of local and national case studies; best practices; leveraging financial resources; community involvement and emerging issues.

Here are some useful links related to the conference:

1. Conference information — http://www.capps.wsu.edu/brownfields/

2. To register — http://www.capps.wsu.edu/brownfields/register.asp

3. Information about brownfields work done by Ecology’s Toxics Cleanup Program — http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/tcp/brownfields/brownfields_hp.html .