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ACRES Bulletin
July 2021

Showing Success in ACRES!


EPA's Targeted Brownfields Assessments Helps Urban Gardens Thrive
"EPA has been an incredible partner -- not only in testing the soil, but having the expertise to understand the results, and at no cost to DUG. It's better for us and better for the communities that now have new gardens -- a mutually beneficial arrangement."

Jessica Romer, Denver Urban Gardens (DUG)
In April 2020, local volunteers broke ground on the Village Farms at Stanley in Aurora, Colorado. Not long after, this new urban farm provided its first yield of much-needed fresh produce for the predominantly immigrant and refugee communities who call the Westerly Creek neighborhoods of Denver and Aurora, Colorado home. In addition to fresh produce, the Village Farms provide hands-on training and jobs to the surrounding community. The farm was made possible, in part, by the EPA Region 8 and the State of Colorado, which provided critical environmental site data and recommendations. Located near a historic state regulated landfill, industrial operations and former international airport, the farm site needed extensive soil testing prior to any new garden construction or planting. Soil test results showed elevated levels of the metal thallium, and the garden sponsor, Village Exchange Center, opted to use raised beds with imported soil as recommended by the EPA toxicologist.

Region 8 began its TBA work at prospective gardens after reaching out to the nonprofit Denver Urban Gardens (DUG) in 2010. DUG had wanted more certainty about the environmental conditions of their garden locations but lacked resources and expertise. Combining site assessment and toxicology expertise, EPA offered DUG a one stop shop for contaminant sampling, analysis, interpretation, and recommendations. The initial pilot project was a success and seeded a decade long partnership. EPA Region 8 has provided DUG with 30 site assessments, all of which turned into a new or expanded community gardens. In cases when elevated levels of contamination were found, the EPA toxicologist and the State of Colorado have suggested options for DUG such as amending in ground beds with imported soil or using raised beds with imported soil.

Building on a successful partnership with DUG, EPA has provided other organizations with TBAs for gardens, including the Focus Points Family Resources Center, a nonprofit serving lower-income families in northeast Denver. In 2020, EPA conducted a large-scale evaluation of the land between the Center's main building and the adjacent railroad tracks to determine its suitability for urban farming. The project paved the way for the Center to move forward with the first phase of its agricultural training program. This included developing a site design for the training gardens and certification of four participants who completed their first growing season and farmers market experience.

With sustained effort, EPA has built partnerships and techniques that have resulted in the transformation of nearly 40 formerly vacant or underutilized lots into flourishing community gardens in Colorado, Montana, and North Dakota. Collectively, these gardens produce thousands of pounds of fresh produce annually and will continue to nourish their surrounding communities for years to come. The beneficial reach of urban gardens extends well into the community, bringing a sense of vitality to previously vacant lots, providing opportunities for social interaction and connections with nature, and becoming centerpieces that enhance a neighborhood's identity.

Results from Targeted Brownfields Assessments at Prospective Garden Sites

TBA funding invested: $629,708
Phase II assessments completed: 40
Number of new or expanded gardens: 38
New garden construction costs: $1,327,906
Pounds of produce grown: Tens of thousands!



Hinkley Hills High School Before Garden
Before at Hinkley High School Community Garden in Aurora, Colorado.

Hinkley Hills High School After Garden
After at Hinkley High School Community Garden in Aurora, Colorado.

Grand Reopening Night
Village Farm at Stanley in Aurora, Colorado

Grand Reopening Night
Photos of the Village Farm at Stanley in Aurora, Colorado, and an adjacent fox den.
Photo credits: Sam DeBosky, Village Exchange Center

News from Headquarters

FY21 MAC Brownfield Grant Awards

On May 11th, EPA announced that 151 communities were selected to receive 154 grant awards for a total of $66.5 million. These Multipurpose, Assessment, and Cleanup (MAC) Grants will be used to assess, clean up and redevelop underutilized properties while protecting public health and the environment. . "These assessment and cleanup grants will not only support economic growth and job creation, but they will also empower communities to address the environmental, public health, and social issues associated with contaminated land" said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan.

National Brownfields Training Conference rescheduled

The National Brownfields Training Conference has been rescheduled for December 8-11, 2021 in Oklahoma City. Registration begins August 9th!

EPA and ICMA are committed to ensuring the National Brownfields Training Conference provides the best networking and learning environment possible for the brownfields community. Several considerations were made related to the current, and anticipated, Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. While we are increasingly optimistic about the Fall, we have rescheduled Brownfields 2021, yes again, from its September dates to December 8 – 11, 2021, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Moving to the new December dates allows for greater, and safer, participation by the brownfield community and more robust educational sessions and networking events. If you submitted session proposals, sponsorship, booth requests or otherwise have already contributed to the conference, please don't worry. Everything is still moving forward and your participation is greatly appreciated.

We are excited to see you in Oklahoma City for the valuable in-person education and networking opportunities that have defined the Brownfields Conference since 1996.

~ Emily Sparks


Information on the conference can be found at https://brownfields2021.org/

Brownfields Conference 2021

Features in ACRES

ACRES 6 Improvements

Team ACRES has continued to add functionality and to address issues on the new ACRES 6. Here are a few improvements...

Grant Fact Sheet Search (GFS) Tool Redesigned

The Brownfields Grant Fact Sheet (GFS) Search application has been redesigned. New features were added to make it easier to use. A new button has been added to the top of the page, 'Add or Remove Table Columns', which allows you to easily add/subtract grant funding columns to personalize your display. A 'Search' feature was added to the top right on the GFS Search page which allows you to quickly filter your search results. Grant Recipient names are shown in blue font and underlined to easily identify the name as the link to the GFS - click any recipient name to view their associated GFS. Also, the layout of the GFS has also been improved for better readability.

Advanced and Quick Search

  • Unsure if a property has an alias name, or know it by the alias name? The Quick Search and Advanced Search functions have been updated to help you easily work with alias names. On the Advanced Search table, a new 'Alias' column has been added next to the property name column. On the Quick Search, the alias name appears next to the property number and property name as in this example: 97531 | 660 West Main St [ALIAS: Morgan's TV].
  • A new filter option for property 'County' has been added to the Advanced Search function. This was requested by one of our regional users to help manage TBA properties by their county location.

Property Profile Form (PPF)

The funding tables for both cleanup and redevelopment data have been updated. The popup table previously used has been replaced with inline editing. This makes it easier to add and update funding data.

Quarterly Reports

For BCRLF QRs only, on the Property Specific tab the funding amount fields initially are blank so the user can split funding among the properties as appropriate (BCRLF CAs usually have a number of associated properties). Once the user enters a funding amount it will be displayed on subsequent QRs.

Regional Status Report

A filter was added so EPA users can easily view ONLY work packages older than 90 days. To access the filter, click the drop-down arrow on the 'Status' field at the top of the report. Select the last option 'Older than 90 days'. The report refreshes to list only the older work packages.

TBA Work Package Sharing

TBA properties are usually entered and updated in ACRES by EPA staff. A few regions are using contractors to manage their TBA data. To help with a review process for these, the ability to 'share' TBA work packages has been added. Contract staff can access the share function on the Property Profile Form and opt to share their TBA work packages with EPA staff members (who can then review the work).

ARRA and Pre-Law Superfund TBAs

For both ARRA and Pre-Law Superfund, the Targeted Brownfield Assessments (TBAs) have been split. Previously, associated properties were displayed under a single TBA for each region (several hundred properties for some regions). TBAs have now been subdivided by state and territory for each region. This change makes it easier to locate the properties, gather information by location, and use ACRES reports for statistics by state.

If you have any questions, problems or suggestions for ways ACRES can make your job more effective, please let us know by contacting the ACRES Help Desk at: acres_help@epa.gov or (703) 284-8212.

Events & Training

Online Training Offered:

Getting Started:
  For Assessment, RLF, Cleanup, and Section 128(a) Recipients just starting to use ACRES, this training will provide instruction on the process for submitting your property data and demonstrate how to use the tools and functions in ACRES. Approximately 90 minutes.

The Next Level:
  For Assessment, RLF, Cleanup, and Section 128(a) Recipients that are familiar with using ACRES, this training will provide instruction on how to make ACRES work for you and your property scenarios, and the answers to some commonly asked questions. Approximately 90 minutes.

  ACRES next Training Dates (2pm EST) details

 
Getting Started- August 10
October 12
The Next Level- September 14
PALs Reporting- Fall 2021
State Reporting- Fall 2021



If summer had one defining scent, it'd definitely be the smell of barbeque.

~ Katie Lee






Frank's Tips

Frank Gardner is the Section Chief of the Brownfields and Sustainable Materials Management Section in Region 1. In this role, he and his staff work extensively with recipients to help them report their activities and successes in ACRES. Frank Gardner

What's in a Name?

We tend to place a high level of importance on the names we give things – including property records in ACRES. Names are indeed important, and I'd like to share some thoughts on how we name our Brownfields properties in ACRES. The first thing to keep in mind is that ACRES does not place the same importance we do on the property name field. We can change the property names as often as we like, and ACRES won't mind at all. For ACRES, the property ID number is much more important because that is uniquely assigned by the program to each property record, and it never changes. That is the real "name" that ACRES cares about.

The property name we input, however, will appear prominently in various public-facing databases and mapping applications such as Cleanups in My Community, EnviroFacts, and My Environment. Therefore, there are a few considerations to keep in mind knowing this. First of all, it's usually a good rule of thumb to name a brownfield based on what it was, as opposed to what it will be. For example, if a site was the Acme Tannery and will become a new retail store, we generally call it the Acme Tannery or Acme Tannery site. The fact that it was a tannery is likely relevant to the contamination issues that make it a brownfield. Furthermore, it's unlikely the Acme company is an extant business, so nobody is likely to be offended or made uncomfortable by having a site referred to by their namesake. We also try to avoid naming sites after a new business which may occupy the redeveloped site. This could potentially lead to an erroneous perception that the new business had something to do with the site becoming contaminated in the first place. Furthermore, business names tend to change over time, so it could also lead to the property name becoming outdated or irrelevant over time.

We have seen quite a few site names beginning with the word "former". We generally advise against this because it tends to clutter things up without adding value. It also makes it difficult to alphabetize site names in a meaningful way if they all start with "f". All brownfields sites were formerly something else – that is what makes them a brownfield – so we really don't need to include the "former" qualifier. Another problem we've spotted on occasion are sites named after complicated and arcane property parcel or survey references such as "redevelopment parcel 234XYZ". If the property name is only meaningful to the tax assessor or the Registry of Deeds, it is likely to be meaningless to the average member of the general public and others who rely on this data. Technical property references like that are best recorded in the "Parcel ID" field and not in the Property Name. It is also usually best to avoid naming a site after a person who may have owned it. It looks awkward to have a site appear in a national database and mapped on prominent GIS applications under the name of an individual person. We all strive to leave a positive legacy for ourselves in this world, and I don't think I'd want to be best remembered for a contaminated site named after me.

In addition to the Property Name field, ACRES has an Alias field, which gives us a convenient place to put secondary or other names by which the site may be known. This field comes in handy when the site is known by different names to different agencies or project partners. I advise putting the more descriptive, meaningful, and/or publicly recognizable name in the Property Name field, and the less meaningful or popular name in the Alias field. Always keep in mind that the entry in the Property Name field is what members of the public will first see on our various GIS applications. We want to be good communicators and make it easier for the public to understand our program and the great work we do, so let's keep our property names as simple, understandable, and easy to recognize as possible.

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