Brownfields Definitions


The Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s (MDA) Agricultural Chemical Response and Reimbursement Account (ACRRA) was created to reimburse persons for costs incurred in cleaning up agricultural chemical (pesticide and fertilizer) incidents. ACRRA is administered by the Agricultural Chemical Compensation Board. The Board determines the amount of reimbursements or payments from the fund to the eligible person.


American Society for Testing and Materials.


The U.S. EPA defines a brownfield as, “real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.”  Essentially, brownfield sites are abandoned and unused property that is blighted by real or perceived environmental contamination.

Brownfield Development

The rehabilitation and redevelopment of a brownfield site that encompasses decontamination and the construction of facilities that may be entirely new or that may make use of existing structures.


Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act – Enacted by Congress in 1980. The act established prohibitions and requirements concerning closed and abandoned hazardous waste sites; provides for liability of persons responsible for releases of hazardous waste at these sites; and established a trust fund (“Superfund”) to provide for cleanup when no responsible party can be identified.

Cumulative Risk

Combined risk from exposure to multiple chemicals by multiple pathways and routes of exposure.

Substance that is either present in an environment where it does not belong or is present at levels that might cause harmful (adverse) health effects.


Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development – Focuses on enriching economic success for individuals, businesses, and communities by enhancing opportunities for prosperity and independence. DEED offers Contamination Cleanup and Investigation grants to fund the cleanup and investigation of brownfield sites. The Redevelopment Grant Program is an additional grant program that assists communities with the costs of redeveloping depressed properties: commercial, industrial, or residential.


Environmental Impact Statement – A report that must be completed by federal agencies when a significant federal action is deemed to affect the quality and well-being of the environment.


Environmental Justice. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) defines environmental justice as the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies


Environmental Justice Area. An environmental justice area in Minnesota is one or more census tracts that meet certain criteria. These criteria include: 40% or more of the population is nonwhite, more than 50% of residents are people of color and/or 40% of households have a household income of less than 185% of the federal poverty level, 35% of households are low-income or 40% of the population has limited English language skills.


Established in 1970, the EPA aims to monitor and protect human health and the environment through the use of regulations that are derived from Congressional laws. The EPA Brownfields program offers cleanup assistance, grant funding, and research to promote the efficient reuse of brownfields.


Environmental Response Fund – Hennepin and Ramsey counties offer funds for both the assessment and cleanup of sites that are contaminated. Funds go toward sites that have conditions that pose a threat to human health and/or the environment.


A site, often on the urban periphery, that has never been developed.

Infill Development

Development that takes place within previously built-up sections of a city; often intersects with brownfield redevelopment as a majority of contaminated land exists within cities.


A program operated by the EPA in which Minnesota Brownfields is a designated state partner with Kansas State University. TAB is geared towards discovering what are the specific needs of communities and works with leaders within those communities. Minnesota Brownfields offers training throughout Greater Minnesota for communities that are interested in learning more about brownfields cleanup and funding strategies.

Land Recycling

Like recycling cans and bottles, land recycling is the reuse of abandoned, vacant, or underused properties for redevelopment or repurposing. The Minnesota Land Recycling Act was enacted in 1992.

MDA – Incident Response Unit

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is the lead agency for response to, and cleanup of, agricultural chemical contamination (pesticides and fertilizers) in Minnesota. The Incident Response Unit provides technical and regulatory guidance for the investigation and cleanup of agricultural chemical contamination.


Minnesota Department of Health


The Minnesota Environment Response and Liability Act was created in 1983. It is the State of Minnesota’s version of CERCLA.

Metropolitan Council Livable Communities Fund

This fund program is aimed at boosting the economic vitality of communities through community investment, affordable housing, and connects multiple land uses and transportation.

Metropolitan Council TBRA

Tax Base Revitalization Account – This account administers $5 million annually to investigate and clean up brownfields for the purpose of redevelopment. The scope of projects ranges from affordable housing to commercial and industrial ventures.


Minnesota Pollution Control Agency – This agency focuses on protecting and improving the environment and enhancing human health. The main areas of service are: monitoring environmental quality, providing technical and financial assistance, and enforcing environmental regulations.


Petroleum Brownfields Program – A program in the MPCA that handles petroleum contamination as listed under Petroleum Tank Release Cleanup Act.


Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of more than 5,000 human-made chemicals that do not break down over time. Their extreme resistance to degradation in the environment and resistance to destruction in wastewater treatment plants, landfills, and incinerators has led to the nickname “forever chemicals.”

Phase 1 ESA

Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment – A report that is prepared for a real estate holding that identifies potential or existing environmental contamination. The report examines the history of the given site.

Phase 2 ESA

Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessment – A report that is that is conducted when a Recognized Environmental Condition (REC) is identified in a Phase 1 ESA. Soil, groundwater, and vapor samples are collected to determine the extent of contamination.


Response Action Plan – A detailed report that incorporates the stages of remediation of waste materials, soil, surface water, ground water, and/or contamination that is located at the property or has been moved from the property in question. The Response Action Plan includes: an introduction, a scope and remedial objectives, a summary of past investigations and determinations, and the proposed response action tasks and schedule. Also in included is the determined level of cleanup that is necessary for intended future purpose of the property: residential, industrial, recreational, etc.


Recognized Environmental Condition – When hazardous materials or petroleum products are present or likely present on, or in a property. Secondly, these materials or products have already released into the environment or will release into the environment under the certain circumstances.


Responsible Party – Those entities that are responsible for either all or some of the hazardous materials at a given property or site. These parties are then liable.

Site Assessment

MPCA program that evaluates a site originating from a referral or notification of a release or potential release into the environment.


Federal funding program created in CERCLA. This fund is utilized to provide essential funding for site cleanup when there is no responsible party that can be identified. Minnesota operates their own Superfund Program as well, as is listed under MERLA. The Minnesota Superfund Program’s funds are mainly used by entities that had been responsible for the disposal of hazardous waste.


Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations.

Sustainable Development

A type of development that makes cities and society more environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable.

Transit-Oriented Development

A form of development that uses public transit lines to create corridors of high-density development around transit stations.

Urban Sprawl

A relatively unplanned and uncontrolled form of urban development beyond the compact urban core that results from ever-expanding development on greenfield sites.

Vapor Intrusion

This happens when vapor-forming chemicals that are below the ground move into buildings that are above ground.


Voluntary Investigation and Cleanup – A program under the MPCA that aides in the buying, selling, or developing of property by examining if a piece of property is contaminated. Minnesota was the first state to adopt such a program.


Voluntary Party

What’s in My Neighborhood

A database search site for contaminated properties by location, type of contamination, or project/business name:
What's in my neighborhood