Brownfields are unused or underused properties with contamination concerns. Common examples in Oregon include former gas stations, auto repair shops, dry cleaners, landfills, and mill sites.
Including strategies that address health inequities and promote the health of communities living nearby brownfields is crucial throughout the redevelopment and land use planning process. OHA supports efforts that engage the communities living nearby brownfield properties, involve local leaders, foster cross-sector collaboration, and prevent harmful exposures to contamination.
Mill Sites Inventory and Mapping Project
The OHA-Brownfield Initiative, Department of Environmental Quality, Business Oregon and the Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) teamed up with interns from the urban and regional planning graduate program at Portland State University to create the first centralized inventory and map of abandoned
or diminished wood-product mill sites (“sites”), a significant subset of Oregon’s
brownfield sites. Using the definition of mill site in ORS
197.719, the team identified shared
interests in potential for reuse that addresses cross cutting needs in economic development, environmental restoration,
land use, and health.
Revisiting Oregon Mill Sites - A State Agency Collaboration
Oregon Mill Sites Map
Brownfields and Public Health Toolkit
Public health involvement in brownfield projects adds new strategies for incorporating health and equity considerations into planning, transportation, land use, development, housing, climate change impacts, food security, and many other aspects of brownfield redevelopment.
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) Action Model Toolkit includes evidence based strategies that promote health considerations in brownfield efforts nationwide.
OHA-PHD Brownfield Initiative Webinar
This webinar provides examples of how projects in Oregon can improve health and address inequities through brownfield redevelopment and land re-use. The webinar features speakers from public health, economic development, environmental regulation and community development.
Watch "Brownfields & Public Health" webinar | Download a copy of the presentation
Public Health Role in Brownfields
State and local public health agencies contribute to brownfield projects throughout Oregon. Below are a few examples of how public health partners engage in this work.
- Apply for brownfield funding and manage projects funded by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
- Engage communities most impacted by brownfield sites by supporting inclusive and meaningful community engagement processes. For example, convene and facilitate community advisory committees that inform brownfield redevelopment decisions and plans.
- Identify opportunities to leverage other efforts from environmental public health, health promotion and chronic disease prevention, or other collaborations that seek to improve health.
- Contribute health data and strategies (i.e. from community health needs assessments and community health improvement plans) to funding applications, brownfield site inventory development processes, or other decision making structures.
- Characterize a health-related community concerns and opportunities to improve health through changes to the built environment through the assessment and redevelopment process.
- Participate on brownfield advisory committees to inform strategies and prioritization of site specific, area-wide, inventory or comprehensive brownfield or land-use planning.
Health Equity: Equitable Development and Environmental Justice
The OHA-Public Health Division strategic planning goals include the goal of strengthening public health capacity to improve health outcomes by promoting health equity in all programs and policies. In brownfield redevelopment health equity is most commonly discussed through equitable development and environmental justice approaches. The following resources provide guidance.
Equitable Development Brownfield Toolkit - Policy Link
Equitable Development Tools - Groundwork USA
Equitable Development and Environmental Justice - EPA
Equitable, Healthy, and Sustainable Communities - EPA
Healthfields: Creating healthy communities and improving neighborhoods at the same time
Projects completed by local health departments
The OHA-Brownfield Initiative funded the following capacity building pilot projects
From 2011 to 2018 the Let Us Build Cully Park! coalition worked with the OHA-Brownfield Initiative and the NW Region Brownfields Program in the Department of Environmental Quality to assess and redevelop a former landfill located in the Cully neighborhood of northeast Portland.
- Cully Park: Improving health through community partnerships provides an account of the community engagement and educational process for the site assessment phase of this project.
- Cully Park Health Consultation report and summary available in English, Spanish, and Somali languages.
- The Cully Park Community Health Indicators Report, (Spanish) and summaries available in English, Spanish and Somali.
- The first phase of Cully Park development includes a community garden (video), a playground (video), a tribal plant gathering garden (video), a basketball court, a youth soccer field, a picnic area, an off-leash dog area and walking fitness trails. Parking and pedestrian access improvement efforts are also underway.
Linnton Action Model Project
Federal, state and local government, private industry, community-serving organizations and community residents joined together to pilot the ATSDR Action Model in the Linnton neighborhood - located within industrial northwest Portland. The pilot project was an opportunity for government, industry and local residents to explore concerns about environmental conditions in the area, and to promote health through neighborhood-level changes.
- The ATSDR Action Model provided the platform for re-establishing trusting relationships between neighborhood residents and the government agencies.
- The Linnton Health Fair event connected Linnton residents to health care service providers, free or reduced cost blood-lead level testing, and environmental, health and municipal organizations and agencies that serve the community.
- The EPA funded Vision to Action effort provided a hands-on way for Linnton residents to come together and imagine a healthier community. Linnton residents created a series of drawings that depict their vision of possibilities for redevelopment including the former mill site, promoting recreation along the river, connecting the community through infrastructure improvements that promote physical activity, and creating safe spaces for community gatherings.
- The Linnton Photovoice project shares perspectives of neighbors about brownfield redevelopment and health through photography. The resulting collection travels the city as an exhibit to raise awareness of how health can be promoted through brownfield redevelopment.