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About Brownfields

What are brownfields?

According to amendments to the Municipal Government Act passed in 2016 a brownfield is a commercial or industrial property which is, or possibly is, contaminated; is vacant, derelict or under-utilized; and is suitable for development or redevelopment for the general benefit of the municipality.

Former gas station in the Town of Vegreville

Former industrial site in the City of Calgary

How many brownfields are there?

Organizations such as Canadian Institute of Resources Law and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities estimate that there are 30,000 brownfields across Canada. 

What types of brownfields exist in Alberta?

The extent of property contamination and damage often corresponds to the usage. According to a Brownfield Impact Assessment AUMA conducted in 2014, more than half of all brownfields are former gas stations. These sites may be highly contaminated and the cost of cleaning or remediating them often outweighs the land’s value.  

Other types of brownfields, in descending prevalence, include former chemical and petroleum warehouses, establishments selling petroleum products, and automotive repair shops or dealerships. Former refineries, dry cleaners, manufacturing locations and painting businesses also sit as brownfields across Alberta. 

Respondents to AUMA's Brownfield Impact Assessment were asked how many of each type of brownfield sites exist in their municipalities?

Where are brownfields located?

Brownfields can be found in every type of municipality, from remote rural municipalities to large cities. Municipalities who responded to AUMA’s Brownfield Impact Assessment report indicated that the most common location of brownfields is downtown or on main streets, which means that they are highly visible and detract from community appeal and economic development.  Brownfields can also be found in other business areas, industrial zones, manufacturing districts, and even residential areas, where they drive away other activity and reduce the value of surrounding properties.

Respondents to AUMA's Brownfield Impact Assessment were asked where brownfields are located in their municipalities.  

“We have two brownfields at the entrance of our downtown. We are trying to conduct downtown beautification and revitalization. We are also trying to realign our highway and we cannot because of these two sites. We are afraid to disturb the areas surrounding the sites, which is preventing us from moving forward.”

“Most of these sites are in locations that are otherwise very desirable for commercial development.”
Respondents to AUMA’s Brownfield Impact Assessment