"I have been hearing about cleaning up brownfields for years now and wonder, aren't they all cleaned up by now? I don't think we have any in my area."

Don't bet on it! We might want to begin by asking, "What is a brownfield?" because many of us seem to think it's only an old gas station that hasn't had the underground tanks removed. Actually it is a piece of property that may have been used as a factory, warehouse, chemical processing plant, gas station, or anything else that might have released or leaked hazardous substances or petroleum on the site. Some sites have been designated as brownfields simply because people "think" they are contaminated.

If you wonder if there are any brownfields in your community, almost certainly there are. There were little gas stations in nearly every small town. Many are now abandoned with the (leaking) tanks still in the ground. Now-defunct shoe factories, warehouses, chemical plants, trash dumps, wood treating operations, dry cleaners, and a host of many other facilities dot the map across every state. Some of the sites are now abandoned and overgrown and no one wants to invest in them. They often attract promiscuous dumping of household trash, appliances, tires, construction and demolition waste, and worse. Some sites are not contaminated at all, but people fear they are and won't touch them. All of these sites need an environmental assessment to determine if they are contaminated, by what substances and to what degree; then redevelopment can start. Many developers have been very surprised when excavation for a new project uncovered problems. It wouldn't hurt to check your community and check out information about Brownfields Assessment Grants at

"My city is considering a major revision in our services and we are looking for guidelines of what should be included in a public works department. Can you suggest anything?"

Sure can. Several agencies have utilized the Public Works Management Practices Manual to reorganize, restructure, and even organize their departments. The Manual encompasses all the necessary items that should be considered in a well-managed and organized department. The first nine chapters will cover all the things we often don't consider public works-related because they are city-wide issues. However, a public works department must fit into the overall picture and should be well aware of how the city's policies affect their operation. Each of the chapters that follow include specific areas of operation for which a given agency may or may not have responsibility. As you set up your department you would utilize the appropriate chapters to cover the necessary standard operating procedures, manuals, and organizational issues to cover your specific needs. The fifth edition of the Manual is now available and is a great resource for this purpose. Check it out at at the Bookstore.

"We're looking for some help in determining what we need to do to reduce the vulnerability of our drinking water and wastewater utilities from man-made threats. Can you point me to more information?"

Have I got a deal for you. Through grant funding from the Environmental Protection Agency and the collaborative efforts of the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Water Environment Federation and the American Water Works Association, the Interim Voluntary Water Infrastructure Security Enhancement Guidance Documents were released on December 9, 2004. The guidance documents are intended to assist drinking water and wastewater utilities in reducing the vulnerabilities of their systems to man-made threats through the design, construction, operation and maintenance of both new and existing systems of all sizes.

These are interim documents which will become the basis for development of voluntary consensus standards which will be published in late 2006. There will be training materials prepared for each of the documents which will be available in spring 2005. For more information and links to the documents, check under the "What's New" section of the Water Security page at

"We don't often get ice in our part of the country but when we do, we're not really prepared to handle it since we don't have the need for a fleet of snowplows or salt spreaders. Any suggestions for us to meet our unexpected needs?"

What usually happens in warmer areas where the occasional ice storm hits is for trucks to toss some sand on some bridges and at some crucial intersections and steep inclines, and then wait for it to melt. There is a new technique developed in Norway which utilizes a mix of hot water and sand. Sand quality is a critical element, as are the amount and temperature of the water and the spreading speed. Initial reports indicate the sanding lasts longer than with the conventional method. It is particularly effective on streets with heavy vehicle traffic, hard blue ice, or thin frost on ice or asphalt. Tests in Norway indicated that the effects of the warm-wetted sand lasted 10 to 20 times longer than dry sand. The information is sketchy but the Sintef Roads and Transport in Norway is the developer. Will it work in North America? It may be worth a try and probably more acceptable to drivers than the usual radio announcement, "Stay home until it melts." For more information, check at

Ask Ann...

Questions are welcome.

Please address all inquiries to:

Ann Daniels
Director of Technical Services
APWA, 2345 Grand Blvd.
Suite 500
Kansas City, MO 64108-2625
Fax questions to (816) 472-0405