Success  Story
                      EMERSON STREET GARDEN
             In Portland, Oregon, an EPA brownfields assessment grant helped turn
                       an abandoned urban lot into a community garden.
The permeable surfaces in the
garden capture rainfall and
stormwater, easing the strain on
Portland's water collection and
treatment systems.

The garden will provide multiple
benefits to the immediate community
- from growing food to teaching
kids about the history of the

The contaminated soil has been
moved to a fenced area at the back of
the property and a test using plants
for phytoremediation to immobilize
and remove contaminants. If
unsuccessful, contaminated materials
will be removed for disposal.
EPA's Brownfields and Land Revitalization program and the National Park
Service Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance (RTCA) program have had
a successful 12 year partnership with Groundwork USA. Groundwork USA is
a network of independent non-profit organizations called Groundwork Trusts
focused on stabilizing and revitalizing their communities through projects and
programs that improve their environment, economy and quality of life.

Similar to the community led efforts of the Brownfields Program, the Urban
Waters initiative is an effort to restore and protect urban water bodies and
adjacent lands. U.S. EPA's goal is to integrate and leverage existing programs
to foster increased understanding and a sense of ownership of waters and
surrounding land in communities across the country. This is especially important
as urban waters impact large populations and can influence far-reaching land-
use decisions.

Community Gardens, Land Revitalization and Urban Waters
Community gardens are a valuable land revitalization approach and a vital part
of the Urban Waters initiative. Proper soil management practices, including
 CONTACTS: U.S. EPA Region 10 (206) 553-1200 or visit the EPA Brownfields Web site at:

contamination cleanup, are important in mitigating
stormwater runoff and its impact on urban water
systems. Improving the soil quality with the addition
to compost and organic matter, expanding permeable
surfaces and plant life contained in community gardens
captures rainfall and stormwater; thereby easing the
strain on a community's water collection and treatment
systems. Community gardens also serve as hands-
on educational tools, teaching residents about soils
and their connection with water, water resource
management practices and the value of having good
water quality. Gardening projects, such as rain barrels
to capture stormwater, provide lessons on and visual
reminders of how water systems impact a community
and its inhabitants.
Empty  lots in dense, residential neighborhoods exist in
every corner of Portland, Oregon and the lot at 822 NE
Emerson Street,  in this sense,  is not unique. A single-
family home stood at this lot until it fell into disrepair
and was demolished in the 1980s, lying vacant for
the next few decades. What is unique about this
site is how a dedicated network - consisting of non-
profit organizations,  community groups, government
agencies, and countless others - is transforming
the property from a contaminated, vacant lot into a
community  garden and living educational laboratory.
Project History
This process started when a local resident, eager to see
the site put  to use, performed some independent soil
testing  that  confirmed the presence of lead. By that time,
the lot had become the property of Multnomah County
which looked to EPA for assistance. Through $19,000
in Brownfields Assessment grants and support from
the City of Portland Brownfields Program, the County
was able to perform  Phase I and Phase II assessments
that expanded upon  the initial results. Other than the
lead contamination, the site was in relatively good
shape.  Multnomah County transferred ownership of the
property to the Oregon Sustainable Agriculture Land
Trust (OSALT), which will maintain the site in perpetuity
for sustainable local  agriculture and education. OSALT
provides a site manager for the property, but brought
in Groundwork Portland to facilitate the community
involvement and help leverage funds.
Groundwork Portland is part of a larger network of
other Groundwork trusts, within its parent organization,
Groundwork USA. Groundwork USA partners with
EPA's Brownfields program and the National Park
Service to restore neighborhoods and empower
local communities for social and environmental
improvements. Groundwork Portland is particularly
interested in redeveloping contaminated properties.
One of the most significant goals of this project is to
develop a transferable process for cleaning up small
residential lots that is inexpensive and helps create
an amenity for the immediate community. The project
will clean up the individual site while building local
awareness about turning brownfields into public gardens
through a community-driven process.
The first step was to work with the community to decide
on the most beneficial reuse of the site. Groundwork
Portland organized and coordinated a working group to
       How to make the site a community resource;
       The impacts of demographic changes on the
       neighborhood; and
       Environmental justice concerns.
The community developed a vision for a garden that
would provide space for sustainable food production,
educational resources for local students of all ages, and
highlight the  history of the immediate neighborhood.
A local landscape planning company volunteered its
services and developed a site plan for the garden based
on input from community design forums. Ultimately, the
working group developed a plan for how to sustain the
project financially and maintain the site.

Engaging Community Stakeholders
This community involvement process and vision for the
project is evolving, but that hasn't stopped progress
on the site cleanup. To date,  dedicated volunteers,
governments, and local businesses have managed to
make significant progress towards the vision.
Utilities were installed, according to the site plan.
Oregon Tradeswomen, a group dedicated to helping
women learn trades, built and donated a garden shed
which was installed on the site. An educational kiosk on
the site fitted with an eco-roof will teach the community
about affordable healthy soil and water systems and

emerson street garden
  final site plan           **
                               double gate (main &
                               secondary equip, access)
                               gateway feature arbor
                               plantea with grapes
                               fence */ neighborhood
                               Nstory ;& art
        medium shade
           fruit tree
       chip pathway (typ.)

          trellis (typ.)
        jlpture element
         perennial bed
       garden bed (typ.)

         water spigot 1
  '  H-T

|  -

        raised beds (typ.)

          trellis (typ,)

         water spigot 2
          water line

        gravel pathway
         water spigot 3
               gravel pathway

               berries & fruit
               trees along
               6' clear zone
               lor equipment
                               chip pathway (typ.)
               lartfen bed {typ.}
         garden shed
          rain barrels

                               fencing (72" chain link)
                               (equip- access)

                               36" chip pathway
                               around perimeter

                               area (concentrated area
                               of lead contaminated soil)
reduce or eliminate stormwater runoff from the site. Rain
barrels will capture additional runoff from the garden
shed and provide free, on-site irrigation for the garden.
Finally the garden features pervious gravel pathways,
native plants and trees, and natural site barriers
including stones and living screens.
Local youth will play a vital role in developing and
using the garden. To honor past neighborhood leaders,
young people will interview elders in the community and
present those stories on the fence, kiosk, or in other
areas throughout the site. This will help foster a sense
of community ownership for the garden. The garden
also will serve as an educational resource by integrating
gardening activities with the science curricula of nearby
schools and youth groups.

Overcoming Contamination Hurdles
One of the most innovative ideas being implemented
is how to clean up the lead contamination on the site.
  Properties like this one can be found in nearly
  every community. The challenges included how
  to make use of such a small site and how to
  manage the project as a community-led effort.
  To overcome these obstacles, the working group
  of between 12 and 20 people and numerous other
  volunteers have developed a vision, site plan,
  and made significant progress in the cleanup
  and development of the garden. Over the course
  of less than a year, the contaminated soil was
  isolated, the remaining soil was been amended,
  utilities were installed, and the shed was made
  ready to house gardeners' tools for the next
  growing season.
In the summer of 2010, volunteers moved the top six
inches of contaminated soil to the back of the site,
where it was secured behind a fence for additional
testing and cleanup. Some residual lead contamination
remained across the planned garden areas, so
volunteers brought in new compost and soil to replace
the topsoil and provide a safe and fertile medium for
The contaminated soil was moved to the back of the
site and will be the subject of further study to see if
phytoremediation and composting can provide a safe
on-site solution for lead contamination. The effort will
involve researchers and students at Portland State
University, who will study the concentrations and
distribution of lead in the stockpiled soil, then develop
a research  design to study uptake by select plants, and
the risks associated with composting those plants. The
initial concept is  to use plants to draw lead from the
contaminated soil, then compost the plants until the
lead concentrations in the compost are no higher than
50 parts per million.
This approach has multiple benefits. First, consolidating
the contaminated soil at the rear of the site allows
the rest of the site to be put into productive use as a
community garden. Second, the phytoremediation  study
will serve as both an educational tool for elementary
and middle school youth from the nearby King School,
and a cleanup mechanism. The outcomes of this study
will expand the state of knowledge about the fate and
transport of low levels of lead in a garden setting.
Finally, depending on the results from this project,  the
Emerson Street Garden could provide a model for
other brownfields that can be cleaned up around the
community and around the country.
 CONTACTS: U.S. EPA Region 10 (206) 553-1200 or visit the EPA Brownfields Web site at:

                                            URBAN WATERS
 Urban environments, particularly in underserved communities, are typically characterized by paved or covered
 "impervious" surfaces, working waterfronts with industrial facilities, abandoned industrial sites, and other
 underutilized or contaminated lands. These characteristics, in combination with aging and inadequate storm
 water management infrastructure, generate excess and untreated runoff that transports sewage and hazardous
 wastes into local water bodies. Urban patterns of historical development often  make waterways inaccessible to
 adjacent neighborhoods. Lack of access to waterways limits the ability of communities to connect and participate
 in restoring waterways as healthy living ecosystems and reap the benefits of living close to the water in the city.
 Addressing these issues to ensure healthy and accessible urban waters can help grow local businesses and
 enhance educational, recreational and social opportunities in nearby communities.
 EPA is learning from  community efforts already underway and supporting communities as active participants in
 the  restoration and protection of urban waters. EPA works to increase access to waterways, which promotes a
 sense of public ownership of water resources and integrates environmental  goals with other pressing priorities like
 economic development, education, job creation, and greenspace creation and preservation.
                                   URBAN WATERS RESOURCES
   Watershed Planning and Management
     Managing Wet Weather with Green Infrastructure -
     Directory of EPA Watershed Publications -
     Key EPA Water Internet Tools Course -
     Watershed Central and Wiki -

   Water Quality and Pollution Prevention
     EPA Enforcement and Compliance History Online -
     Nonpoint Source Pollution -
     Water Quality Assessment Tools and Models -

   Community Information
     Groundwork USA -
     National Park Service Rivers and Trails Program -
      www. nps. gov/ncrc/programs/rtca
     Adopt Your Watershed -
     Community Culture and the Environment A Guide to
      Understanding a Sense of  Place -
     EPA Smart Growth -
     Surf Your Watershed -
          Outreach Development
             Coastal Urban Waters Toolkit -
             Getting In Step: A Guide for Conducting Watershed
             Outreach Campaigns -
             Non-Point Source Toolbox -

             Brownfields Grants to Support Assessment/Cleanup
             of Contaminated Property,  Environmental Workforce
             Development and Job Training Grants, and Targeted
             Brownfields Assessments -
             www. htm
             Catalog of Federal Funding Sources for Watershed
             Protection -
             Sustainable Finance Website -
             Watershed Funding Resource Directory -

          Case Studies
             Case Studies for Stormwater Management on
             Compacted, Contaminated Soils in Dense Urban Areas
             Urban Agriculture on Brownfields Website -
             Targeted Watershed Grant Case Studies -
For more information on the Emerson Street Project, and on other brownfields related Groundwork projects, contact Groundwork
       Portland at 503-662-2590, or visit the Groundwork Portland web site at:
 Brownfields Success Story
 Groundwork Portland
 Emerson Street Project
Solid Waste
and Emergency
Response (5105T)