What is a brownfield site?
Brownfield sites are abandoned or underutilized properties that were previously used for industrial purposes. Brownfield sites are contaminated by hazardous waste or pollutants. They generally exist in a city’s industrial section, on locations with abandoned factories or industrial plants that once caused significant pollution.
Brownfield sites are part of the legacy of Buffalo’s industrial past. As Buffalo’s major industrial base declined many steel and other plants closed, abandoning much prime waterfront property. “When you look at Western New York as a whole, most of Western New York is a brownfield,” says Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, Jill Jedlicka. “We can’t escape that impact.”
Brownfields can be harmful to the local economy because they deter investment and development. In Buffalo, brownfield sites occupy a significant portion of the city’s prime property for redevelopment.
If cleaned up, the sites have potential to be reused. But the cleanup process can be long and costly. The large number of brownfield sites in Buffalo has resulted in a lack of land for development. Investors are often unwilling to take on the commitment of cleaning up a brownfield and move instead to “shovel-ready” land in the suburbs.
Riverbend is one of the largest and most successful brownfield remediation sites in Western New York. The site was the former location of the Republic Steel and Donner Hanna Coke Facilities in South Buffalo. Remediation work completed in 2007 largely consisted of removal of underground storage tanks and contaminated soil. Riverbend is one of the longest stretches of undeveloped shoreline on the Buffalo River.