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Brownfield and Land Reuse Initiative
The term "brownfield" is used to describe properties with contamination concerns that are idled, underused, or abandoned. Common examples in Oregon include former gas stations, auto repair shops, dry cleaners, landfills, and mill sites. Brownfield properties are located throughout Oregon.
This initiative builds Oregon's capacity to integrate health considerations into brownfield and land reuse planning. We lead and support actions that engage local residents, develop local leadership, foster cross sector collaborations, provide health education and recommendations that maximize the health benefits of redevelopment and land reuse.  

Brownfields and Public Health Webinar

This webinar provides information about public health opportunities in brownfield redevelopment and land reuse. The webinar features speakers from Business Oregon, the Department of Environmental Quality and the Portland based non-profit Verde. Public health involvement in brownfield redevelopment and land reuse projects provides an avenue for integrating health considerations into planning, transportation, land use, development​, housing, climate justice, food security, and many other aspects of our social and built environments.

Running time: 1 hour, 3 minutes. Windows media player is required to view this webinar.

Newly Revised Healthy Gardening Fact Sheet!

A big thank you to all of the gardeners, urban farmers, and garden supporting organizations who provided comments in response to our request for review. We've incorporated your feedback and are pleased to announce the release of our new and improved English Healthy Gardening Fact Sheet - and now in Spanish (new!).  This fact sheet provides basic advice for growing food in areas where there may be concerns about environmental contamination. Learn how you can enjoy the health benefits of gardening while avoiding common contaminants found in soil.

Public Health's Role in Brownfields

A community's social, economic, and environmental conditions contribute a great deal to health. While brownfield efforts are largely driven by economic and environmental considerations, there is a strong need for public health involvement. Public health professionals with expertise in toxicology, epidemiology, health data for decision makers, GIS mapping, education, community engagement, and relationship building provide a new, unique, and valued perspective in brownfield efforts. Below are a few examples of how public health involvement can add value to brownfield efforts.
  • Engaging underrepresented populations in brownfield efforts through culturally competent approaches.
  • Providing expertise, tools, resources and partnership to promote health and the success of the project.
  • Integrating equity through the inclusion of social justice and the social determinants of health, into brownfield planning, environmental assessment and site use after redevelopment.
  • Contributing to risk assessments by providing health education as part of environmental assessment activities at specific sites.
  • Characterizing and addressing health risks and health-related community concerns through the assessment and redevelopment process.
  • Participating on advisory committees to inform the strategy and prioritization of site specific, area-wide, inventory, or comprehensive brownfield or land-use planning.

OHA Brownfield Projects

OHA receives funding from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to carry out brownfield related work through two federal grants. The efforts below demonstrate how health professionals and community members can work together with multiple partners (typical brownfield partners include stakeholders in environmental regulation or consulting, economic and community development, transportation, planning and housing) to create healthier environments and health improvements for communities long into the future.
Cully Park
OHA's Brownfield Initiative and Environmental Health Assessment Program (EHAP) teamed up to complete a Health Consultation (pdf) on a former landfill located in the Cully Neighborhood of NE Portland. Public health involvement in this effort ensured that the community remained in the driver's seat through the risk assessment processes for the proposed park property. A summary of findings from the report is available in English (pdf), Spanish (pdf) and Somali (pdf)Another document, Cully Park: Improving health through community partnerships(pdf) provides further information about the education-based community engagement process for this project. Verde, the "Let Us Build Cully Park!" (LUBCP!) Coalition, and local residents and community leaders used a similar model with the City of Portland Brownfields Program to assess the community garden (pdf) site within Cully Park. Nationwide, there are many examples of parks built over former landfills.
OHA and other health partners are currently involved in supporting the community to develop strategies to track the health benefits of the community-led effort to build a park, as well as health benefits that result from the park itself over time. The first phase of park development includes a community garden (video), a playground (video), a tribal 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 

Public health professionals, community members, and many others joined together to pilot test the ATSDR Action Model in the heavy industrial/residential mixed use neighborhood of Linnton in NW Portland. OHA facilitated the process as an opportunity for the community to further explore concerns about environmental conditions and promote health through neighborhood-level changes in the built environment. The residential area of Linnton sits on a hillside, relatively isolated from the rest of Portland along U.S. Highway 30, overlooking and in close proximity to numerous industrial sites, and the Willamette River Portland Harbor Superfund site. As stated by the Linnton Neighborhood website, the community includes "a diverse mix of professionals, artists, and salt-of-the-earth working folks who champion unity, independence and a rustic spirit". A few short success stories from this effort are noted below.

  • The ATSDR Action Model provided the platform for one of the most impactful outcomes from this effort being the repair and restoration of relationships between local neighborhood residents and the multiple federal, state, and local agencies that serve them. 
  • The Linnton Health Fair Flyer (pdf) was coordinated by OHA and community partners to provide health education opportunities, and links to health care services, free or reduced cost blood-lead level testing, and build awareness of the multiple environmental, health and municipal organizations and agencies that provide services to the community. 
  • Due to the community's pride and strong interest in artistic expression, OHA assisted with the Vision to Action effort, a hands-on opportunity for local residents to artistically convey how brownfield redevelopment could promote community health and wellness. With the assistance from Jim Waddell, through funding from the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers, Linnton residents created a series of artist renderings that depict their vision of possibilities for redevelopment including the former mill site(pdf), promoting recreation along the river (pdf), connecting the community through infrastructure improvements that promote physical activity (pdf), and creating safe spaces (pdf) for community to gather.
  • The Linnton​ Photovoice (pdf) project provided yet another avenue for local residents to artistically engage through conversations and photography to consider brownfield redevelopment as an opportunity to make improvements to health and quality of life. The resulting collection of photographs and short narratives that accompany them travels the city as an exhibit to raise awareness of how health can be promoted through brownfield redevelopment.


Brownfield Resources

City of Portland Brownfields Program
Department of Environmental Quality
Oregon Business Development Division (OBDD) / Business Oregon
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR)
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)