Written by Andrew Dorn, P.E., a Senior Engineer with BBJ Group
Yee haw, what a conference. I don’t think I’ve ever learned so much in such a short amount of time. Tim Bradburne and I just got back from the Oklahoma Brownfields Conference in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma City, as you may already know, is home to the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, a fantastic river walk and a haunted hotel, which we were lucky enough to stay at.
We got to meet some pretty impressive people at the conference. Although I made a groundbreaking presentation on the risks of Vapor Reopeners, the cowboys say, “Generally, you ain’t learnin’ nothing when your mouth’s a jawin’ ”, so I prepared a rundown of some of the great presenters we saw:
Cornell Wesley, Economic Development Representative from the U.S. Department of Commerce, emceed the event, and spoke with such enthusiasm that I think he would get a standing ovation even if he would have read us the Brownfield Amendments word for word.
Friend of the firm, Brent Vincent, a partner at Bryan Cave, and Amanda Carpenter, an attorney with the City of Oklahoma, gave information-packed performances on the risks associated with eminent domain acquisition of contaminated properties, followed immediately by some excellent material on HUD Financing and Opportunity Funds presented by Luke Harry, of NE Development, and Matt Ward, of Sustainable Strategies DC.
The day was capped by a star-studded parade of friends of the Brownfield sector, including Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin and Luigi Lazzareschi, CEO of a major international paper company.
I had no trouble getting out of bed for Day Two, as I was excited to see Scott Thompson, director of the DEQ, and Anne Idsal, EPA regional administrator for Region 6 talk. I arrived early for this one to get a good seat: “Always drink upstream of the herd,” or so they say.
My session followed the big wigs, but I think the stars of the panel were Amy Brittain, environmental programs manager, DEQ, who took us through the changes to the hazard ranking system addressing vapor intrusion, and Lila Beckley, a senior geologist at GSI, who identified potential sources of indoor air–quality issues. (Better check those Halloween decorations before you put them up.)
Another highlight was Anthony Moore, senior project manager from Environmental Works, discussing the ways his firm addresses complex groundwater contaminant plumes.
Overall, I had a wonderful time at the conference. If there was one thing I learned while attending it is that people everywhere are interested in helping communities manage their brownfields and create amazing and entertaining public spaces. Oklahoma City was not only a gracious host, but a world-class example of what people can do to master these redevelopment challenges we learned so much about.
I also learned not to squat with your spurs on. #AndrewSpeaks
 This may be an overstatement.