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Brownfield Initiative

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 

Case Studies

Cully Park

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. 

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.

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