Past Property Uses May Result in a
Brownfield Site
Looking around your community, what kinds of past land uses
do you see? Many commercial, industrial and even some
residential properties may be environmentally contaminated due
to past uses at the site. People who live, work, go to school, play
or exercise on or near a property may not realize it is a
brownfield site. They may not know walking or playing on site
can cause potential exposure to contaminants.
Communities can request technical assistance or seek funds
from U.S. EPA, state or tribal programs to assess properties and
to help determine the history and past uses of a site and the
likely presence, source(s) and extent of possible site
contamination. By understanding past property uses,
communities can better understand health and environmental
risks. Listed below are common past uses of brownfields.1
Past Property Use
Housing and Residential Areas
Gas Stations and Fuel Storage
Gas station buildings,
structures/signs; underground
storage tanks and piping;
storage areas for oil, fuel, or
Railroad Facilities
Railroad lines, rail yards, rail
spurs; roundhouse, rail car
repair/maintenance facilities;
train stations/depots.
¦ ii ¦ ¦=
Do any of these reflect vacant
properties or abandoned
structures in your community?

Example Sources
Single/multifamily housing
areas, apartment buildings and
other structures built before
1978; garages, sheds or barns.
Possible Contaminants
Asbestos used in insulation of heating and cooling
systems, floor, wall and roofing materials.
Lead from lead-based paint and materials in homes
and apartments.
Petroleum and fuels stored for use in heating systems.
PCBs from caulk and paint, pesticides from pest
control and methamphetamines from drug activity.
Gasoline, diesel, and heating oil used in fuels or
heating systems.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and solvents used
for cleaning and repair.
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) from
asphalts and as a combustion byproduct.
Lead from lead-based paint used on older structures,
signs, metal equipment, railcars and in repair.
Other metals used in railcar repair and treatment of
wooden railroad ties.
PAHs from coal and diesel combustion, ash and fill
Pesticides or herbicides for weed control.
PCBs from power generation.
Automotive Repair
Structures and properties
associated with automobile,
truck and bus body repair;
radiator and muffler repair.
Petroleum associated with fuels, spills and past gas or
fuel operations and heating systems.
PAHs from coal and diesel combustion, asphalt, ash
and fill disposal.
Lead and other metals used in vehicle, structure and
sign paint, solder for radiator and car repair.
Asbestos from brake repair.

Dry Cleaners and Industrial Laundry
Small commercial and larger
industrial laundry and dry
VOCs or solvents used as degreasers and cleaning
Lead from lead-based paint used on older structures.
Petroleum used to fuel equipment or associated with
past fuel storage, heating or spills.
Manufacturers and Power
Textile mills, factories and power
plants; industrial operation boiler
houses and power systems.
Lead from lead-based paint and lead used on
structures and equipment.
Petroleum and fuel for industry equipment and
PAHs as a result of industrial power generation and
burning, ash and fill.
Other metals, solvents and other hazardous
substances from manufacturing.
Agricultural Land and Facilities
Single family homes, barns,
outbuildings and fencing, farm
Lead from lead-based paint coated structures and
Petroleum and diesel used to power agricultural
Asbestos from older structures and insulation and
illegal dumping on agricultural and range lands.
Pesticides and herbicides.
Mines and Mining Operations
Mines, extraction and processing
structures/equipment; tailing
and waste spoil areas.
Petroleum and fuel used to power equipment
Asbestos from mining and materials use. Lead from
mining, processing and lead-based paint on structures
and equipment.
Other metals from mining, extraction, processing and
industry operations.
Public and Commercial Buildings
Schools, hospitals, libraries,
courthouses, jails, post offices
and other governmental,
community and commercial
buildings built before 1978.
Asbestos from insulation and building materials.
Lead from lead-based paint used in public buildings
and structures.
Petroleum for fleet fuel and heating operations.
Pesticides or other hazardous substances used in
Metal Salvage and Recycling
Metal recycling, plating and
scrap metal yards.
Petroleum from fuel and heating systems, tank and
piping systems.
PAHs from asphalt or combustion.
VOCs from solvents and degreasers used in metal
PCBs, other metals and hazardous substances used in
Illegal Dumping
Unregulated solid waste,
construction debris, tire and
illegal dumping areas.
Lead from lead-based paint coated structures and
Petroleum used in oil and fuel systems.
Other metals associated with a range of waste
materials such as lighting waste materials.
PCBs, solvents, asbestos, other metals and other
hazardous substances
1U.S. EPA grant recipients are required to report about brownfield properties and grant funded activities through U.S. EPA's Assessment, Cleanup and Redevelopment Exchange System
(ACRES). The following information about the history and description of a brownfield property does not reflect all examples of past uses reported at brownfield properties but provides a
national snapshot. This data is publicly available at
United States
Environmental Protection
September 2019