Brownfield Action

Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning

Guided Walkthrough

Welcome to the demonstration page for the Brownfield Action Simulation. Guided instructions are provided to help familiarize you with the simulation. Alternatively, you may explore the sim on your own.


Click on the links below to watch the “Phase 1” video and read the related newspaper article. Both introduce a central character, Seymour Buckmeister, as well as the Phase 1 environmental site assessment (ESA). Student environmental consulting companies see the video and read the newspaper article before they sign a contract with Malls-R-Us to perform a Phase 1 ESA and start using the simulation. 

Video: Esker County Community Television: O'Ryan's Express (Video will open in a Quicktime Player window.)

Residents React to prospect of Mall Plans (.pdf) - from the Moraine Monitor





Interface Notes
When student companies log in, the “Contract” with Malls-R-Us automatically pops-up on the screen and students must “sign” it by clicking a button. This gives them a budget and allows them to proceed into the simulation. However, you will not see the “Contract” here in this simulation demo. For access to the contract, view the Documents in the simulation and click on “Contract” (use the Next Page button to see the whole document) or go to the Brownfield Action Documents section in the Registered Users tab.

The “Contract” specifically states (at the end) that Malls-R-Us gives the environmental consulting company specific information that they already have in their possession. These documents and maps include: 

  • plat of Self-Lume property
  • topographic survey data for Self-Lume site
  • Moraine Township Tax Assessment Map (Sheet 18, Block 106 and Portions of Block 107-112)
  • site grid map (2000 feet x 3200 feet)
  • Self-Lume seismic reflection and refraction data and profile
  • Self-Lume brochure and other information concerning the industrial process and operations of Self-Lume
  • an Environmental Site Assessment Checklist
  • a copy of the ASTM Phase One ESA standards

These maps and documents can also be viewed in the Brownfield Action Documents section in the Registered Users page of this web site. Each student environmental consulting company is given hard copies of these maps and documents. The Moraine Township Tax Assessment Map becomes the base map (the contractually defined “Site”) on which vellum sheets are overlain for the collection of topographic, bedrock, water table, and surface site map information.

Three Simulation Modes
There are three modes of the simulation that students must use in order to complete the Phase 1 ESA. These are: Visual Reconnaissance, Site History, and Testing.

Visual Reconnaissance - A drive through the town reveals the general character of town infrastructure/buildings (number and nature of businesses, residences), location of the town well, water tower, and the natural geography.

  • Select "Vis Recon" from the "MODE" drop down menu
  • Click the "Begin" button
  • Note the blinking red dot that moves across the map and makes stops through the town
  • With each stop, text and photo changes at bottom of interface depending on the location
  • Displayed text are the notes taken by an assistant of the firm describing features of the landscape and town buildings/infrastructure
  • Note that the budget charges $100 when the Vis Recon is performed (i.e., the student environmental consulting company must pay their assistant in order to do this initial visual reconnaissance.)

Site History - Around 30 locations can be visited and 45 characters can be interviewed including town residents, business owners, and local government officials.

  • Select "Site History" from the "MODE" drop down menu
  • Visit the Muni Govt, Health Dept - Env Division by clicking on the “Municipal Government” label on the map, then selecting “Health Dept - Env Division” from the drop down list and clicking the “Visit” button. These interview responses happen to be in video. Ask Question no. 1 to receive the documents she has; these will appear in the Documents interface after you leave or alternatively you can view them in the “Brownfield Action Documents” section on the Teachers and Users page. These documents are:
  1. Sanitary Inspection Report
  2. Septic Cleaning Permit Application
  3. Permit to Build or Alter Sewage Disposal/Septic System
  4. UST Memo from Anne Spector, Health Department Inspector
  • You can click on any location on the map to get information about it at the bottom of the interface, including cost of visiting and asking questions. Click "Visit" to visit the selected location to talk to anyone who is there. Some locations such as individual offices at the Municipal Government and individual residences are accessed through drop down menus.

Testing - Includes a suite of geological testing tools used to collect data for creating water table and bedrock contour maps, also underground metal detection tools, drilling and groundwater chemical tests.

  • Select "Testing" from the "MODE" drop down menu. When the drop down menu of tools to select appears, select the SGSA (Soil Gas Sample and Analysis) tool.
  • Select the coordinate point on the map to run the SGSA test for by clicking on the “Mouse Select” button, then click “Perform test”
  • Results appear in the bottom right hand pane
  • Select the coordinates below and move south along a transect that will show benzene contamination in the soil gas from the leaking underground storage tank at the gas station: (920, 1700); (920, 1710); (900, 1680)

Concluding the Investigation
Over the course of the investigation, students receive timed numerous news articles based on their progress with their investigation. These articles and other embedded simulation documents are downloadable from the Brownfield Action Documents section of this web site.

The following Phase 2 video is used to wrap up many of the issues faced during the Phase 1 part of the student's investigation. At this point the student environmental consulting companies have completed their Phase1 investigation of the Self-Lume site. Testing of the water from the town well reveals contamination from tritium and gasoline. Both the EPA and NRC respond as well as town officials. Student companies are then hired by the EPA and NRC to complete Phase 2 and 3 investigations of the site, that is, to delineate the nature and extent of the contamination, assist the FBI in determining culpability, and then make recommendations for a clean-up.

Video: Press Conference Proceedings in Moraine Township (Video will open in a Quicktime Player window.)