One of the fun things I did this semester was arrange a meeting between our fall semester undergrads and an environmental consulting company manager.
The idea was to give the students an idea of how the ecological principles they are learning can be applied in practice. And, of course, learn about possible careers.
What we ended up talking about–at length–was the manager’s work identifying and remediating brownfields. Brownfields is a term the EPA uses for abandoned industrial and commercial facilities. These are typically not preferred for development, since there are usually lurking (or obvious) environmental contaminants. No one wants to buy a property that they might be on the hook for decontaminating–for a huge price–later on.
Ideally, communities work with developers to try to clean up a brownfield site and make it suitable for use again with grants from the state and the EPA. (And that’s where our environmental consulting firm comes in.)
There is a nifty little tool that you can use to look up what is being remediated, or at least has been identified, in your neighborhood. It includes superfund sites and federal sites that are dirty too.
One of our students discovered he lived rather close to this site, which was a bit of a surprise.
Through that, I also discovered Surf your Watershed, an index of both watershed quality assessments and Citizen-Based Groups active in the areas. You probably don’t want to look at the Toxic Release Index for your state.
[Thanks to Brutal for the photo.]