All of this talk about Salt Lake City becoming a federal "brownfield showcase community," receiving up to $1.1 million to clean up the Gateway area, may have you wondering one thing.

What the heck is a brownfield?Unlike what its name implies, it is almost never a brown field - dry wheat, say. It is usually an industrial site needing environmental cleanup of grease, oil, that sort of thing. It is not a toxic waste dump where life or health is endangered unduly but a place containing things that you wouldn't want in your lawn.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors, Environmental Protection Agency and numerous other entities have all had a hand in the brownfield program. In short, its raison d'etre is to recycle land - make land that has been in the industrial doldrums usable for residences and such like again.

"We want to get away from using greenfield space," said Terrence Chatwin, chairman of the Environmental Affairs Committee of the Consulting Engineers Council of Utah.

In other words, gobbling up all the virgin land with urban sprawl.

The engineers council has more than an altruistic interest in Salt Lake City's brownfield issues - council members, who include most of the area's engineering firms, stand to obtain a lot of profitable work from brownfield cleanup. The council asked Salt Lake Mayor Deedee Corradini to speak about Gateway brownfield issues at a meeting Wednesday.

Other Wasatch Front cities are also pushing to clean up their brownfields. Provo wants to rehabilitate its Ironton Plant, Murray its smelter, West Jordan an area around the Jordan River.

Salt Lake City was one of only 16 cities around the nation to be named as a showcase community. No other Utah city was so named, though it is not necessary to be a showcase community to receive some federal funding. The Gateway is a major undertaking, a complete transformation from 700 acres of industrial blight to mixed-use vibrancy in a very visible section of Salt Lake City. With the 2002 Winter Games on their way, the federal government has taken notice of the effort.