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NST/Engineers, Inc.
Turning Brownfields into Greenfields!

Welcome to the NST/Engineers' web site Brownfields Page.

Christian L. Hackman, CEM ; and
E. Ellsworth Hackman, III, Ph.D., PE; NST/ Engineers, Inc.

'Brownfields' --- abandoned or idled commercial or industrial properties that require, or are perceived to require, environmental remediation before they can be actively considered for redevelopment --- plague their large and small corporate or private owners across the U. S. A small company or an individual may only own one or a few such sites.

The authors have provided environmental consulting support to Fortune 100 companies that own more than 50 such sites.

Developers, lawyers, investors, and other interested parties who investigate such brownfield real estate don't want to discover remediation problems for which the cost is unknown. Likewise, those financial analysts examining the balance sheets of companies or individuals with an eye toward investment, acquisition, or loan deals don't want to find cost unknowns associated with brownfields.

That is, all such commercially interested parties want to find that an owner of a brownfield has a satisfactory solution for any potential brownfield remediation costs. Questions like this are on examiners' minds more and more.

Any brownfield owner, or even the owner of a questionable property, is well advised to have answers to a spectrum of remediation questions. That advice extends to all parties considering an acquisition that could add real estate to their asset base.

The answers need to be in the form of reasonable work plans, schedules, and cost estimates for the conversion of those properties to unencumbered commercial or industrial real estate.

One way to address these needs faced by brownfields owners is to obtain "Cost Cap Insurance". We have also seen the name "Remediation Stop Loss Insurance" applied. These are generic names for types of environmental remediation insurance that are provided by a number of the largest carriers.

As such policies are developed, they include remediation plans prepared by the owner's remediation experts. NST/Engineers has provided such services. Those plans must be negotiated with an insurer's experts.

In our experience, Environmental Specialists, Professional Engineers and other experienced investigators prepare the remediation work plans with schedules and estimated costs. The agreed-upon teams investigate all listed properties or sites and their background history thoroughly.

In preparing plans, teams also work closely with federal, state, and local environmental authorities and regulatory bodies. Regulators are universally pleased to see something concrete being done to solve brownfields problems under their jurisdiction. They are quite cooperative with the study teams.

Regulators provide the best advice as to current and predicted remediation regulations.

When issued, a 'Cost Cap' insurance policy puts supportable and budgetable limits on the remediation costs a property owner may face for decades into the future. The owner pays known yearly premiums. The owner proceeds with remediation and pays its costs up to the 'cost cap'.

Should the remediation costs exceed the 'cost cap', the insurance coverage 'kicks in', providing payments for remediation according to the policy plan. The insurance covers costs up to the policy limit.

With all this expertise applied to the problem, still no one has a crystal ball. But the task for the study teams is to develop the most supportable remediation plans, schedules, and costs.

The insurance carrier, however, assumes the risks as agreed upon in the policy. The carrier applies appropriate policy premiums based upon background experience in these investigations and the carrier's actuarial principles.

It is not the goal of the professional teams to try to dream-up every possible eventuality for a given site. Rather, based upon their expert site investigations, and their knowledge of remediation successes, they determine what are the likely ranges of work schedules and costs for remediation.

They also factor-in the possibilities of alternate remediation methods and site-specific clean-up standards, all of which are also acceptable to regulatory officials. The teams then apply probabilities to expected outcomes and calculate most probable project costs. These costs are all inclusive. They include the readily identifiable on-site work costs, plus all off-site supervision and regulatory reporting.

The teams must find the most practical remediation solutions to both obvious and potential problems at each site. There are the so-called natural remediation techniques that can take years or decades to solve a problem.

On the other hand, there are always more costly treatment methods that can be accomplished in months or years. The affected brownfield owners are called upon to decide which approach best matches their own short- or long-range planning.

You might wonder how the unexpected is handled. For example, suppose some months or years after a remediation insurance 'cost cap" policy coverage begins there is the discovery of greater contamination than anticipated.

Or, there might be unexpected changes in environmental regulations before, or during, the implementation of the proposed cleanup. Such possibilities are factored into the dollar value of the "cost cap" and into the premiums and any deductibles.

However, extensive investigation into: site ownership chain, operations' history, any prior environmental studies, maps, licensing and regulatory correspondence and documentation, and neighborhood or local activities; together with due diligence in site sampling, all reduce the probability of "the unexpected".

Insurance premiums are generally quoted as a percentage of the total overall remediation costs. The limit of the insurer's liability may be one hundred percent to two hundred percent of the estimated total remediation costs.

Should the total remediation expenses exceed the cost cap, the insurer then covers the remaining costs up to the policy limits. Obviously, the more satisfied the insurer is with the information from the engineering inspection and remediation teams, the lower the premium.

Investigations have been carried out, and remediation estimates prepared by NST/Engineers for petroleum, chemical, plastics, metals fabrication, and other sites, both inland and on waterways. Investigators have faced recently developed and long-standing problems of waste dumping, spillage, deteriorating storage, leakage, and other forms of hazardous materials release that must be remedied before any brownfield remediation progress can be made.

One recent case is that of the site of a metals fabricating facility that was no longer operating. The owner's goal was to convert it from a non-useable brownfield into a shopping mall.

NST's investigative work, along with that of others, resulted in a $25 million remediation effort. That effort has now been completed, as has mall construction.

Contamination at some sites dates back to operations before 1900. One such riverfront site was built entirely on man-made fill consisting of: silts, sands, gravels, coal, ash, brick, concrete, timber, and other debris.

The fill was up to 40 feet thick along a river bulkhead. Investigation revealed that a considerable amount of existing soil required decontamination of PCBs. Additional clean fill was needed to bring the site above flood plain level.

Improvements to the bulkhead along the river were required. Cost Cap insurance was made available after those additions to a previous owner's remediation plan.

The theme running through all of this Cost Cap work is that essentially any property that holds promise of the conversion from a brownfield to a useable or saleable site can become part of an economically manageable project.

For a fee-based consultation call with a Licensed Professional Engineer between 3:00pm and 5:00pm Eastern Daylight Time, call (302) 239-2700.

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