Category: Environmental remediation

The treasure inside beer lost in a shipwreck 120 years ago

Read the full story from the BBC.

Long-forgotten yeast strains are being sought out from shipwrecks, abandoned breweries and other locations in the hope they could be put to good use if resurrected.

Restoring land around abandoned oil and gas wells would free up millions of acres of forests, farmlands, and grasslands

A drilling pad for oil and gas in Robinson Township, Penn. Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images

by Matthew D. Moran (Hendrix College)

CC BY-ND

President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan proposes to spend US$16 billion plugging old oil and gas wells and cleaning up abandoned mines. But there’s no authoritative measure of how many of these sites exist across the nation.

In a recent study, my colleagues and I sought to account for every oil and gas well site in the lower 48 states that was eligible for restoration – meaning that the well no longer was producing oil or gas, and there were no other active wells using that site. We found more than 430,000 old well sites, with associated infrastructure such as access roads, storage areas and fluid tanks. They covered more than 2 million acres – an area larger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined.

These sites are scattered across the country, concentrated mainly in forests, grassland and cropland. They could be put to good use. We estimated the value of crops that could be produced if these lands are restored at over $14 billion over the next 50 years.

We calculated that restoring these lands could remove millions of tons of carbon from the atmosphere as vegetation regrows on them, providing an estimated $7 billion in benefits from reduced greenhouse gas emissions. It also would provide habitat for wildlife and could produce timber for harvesting. And because healthy ecosystems filter air and water, returning these lands to a natural state could reduce air pollution and improve drinking water quality.

Retired oil and gas executive Curtis Shuck explains why his nonprofit is working to plug thousands of orphaned wells across the U.S.

In recent years, energy production has become the largest consumer of new land in the U.S., outpacing urban and residential development. The oil and gas industry has a particularly large footprint, occupying millions of acres, with big impacts on the environment. Energy development reduces biodiversity, increases carbon emissions, disrupts natural ecological processes and decreases ecosystem services – the numerous benefits that natural landscapes perform for humanity.

While active wells are producing oil and gas, they generate obvious economic benefits, along with direct and indirect costs. Eventually, however, all wells go dry. After that, their economic value is gone and only the costs remain.

Most states and the federal government require energy developers to plug old wells and reclaim the land, and to post bonds to help ensure that they do so. Often, however, companies either go bankrupt and abandon sites or assert that idled wells are still producing and maintain their leases indefinitely. Furthermore, the bond amounts are almost never enough to cover the complete costs of plugging wells and restoring the land.

Map of Pennsylvania with abandoned oil and gas wells marked.
Pennsylvania officials have identified thousands of abandoned oil and gas wells in the state (marked in blue) with no identifiable responsible party to complete plugging them. Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection

Abandoned wells can sit idle for many years. Many leak methane, a potent greenhouse gas, or other contaminants, damaging surrounding landscapes and threatening water supplies.

Restoring these sites starts with plugging the well to remove contamination hazards. Next, companies remove all infrastructure, such as well pads and roads. They replace topsoil, plant native plants – which may need extra care to become established over several years – and restore the site’s natural drainage patterns.

Thousands more active oil and gas wells will stop producing in the coming years. Energy companies installed over 150,000 wells on 500,000 acres of land during the initial oil and gas “fracking” boom from 2004 to 2015. These wells and older ones cover millions more acres of land that may someday become rural brownfields scattered across the American landscape.

How far would $16 billion go toward remediating inactive oil and gas sites? We estimated that the land around all currently nonproducing wells in the lower 48 states could be restored for about $7 billion, with additional costs for plugging wells.

We had only a few publicly available examples of actual restoration costs to develop our estimate, and costs likely vary widely across different types of ecosystems. But we carried out a detailed assessment and found that in every scenario we studied, the economic benefits from restored lands would be much greater than the costs.

In my view, this investment would produce returns that include crop production, better human health, cleaner air and water, and a more beautiful and ecologically sound landscape.

Matthew D. Moran, Professor of Biology, Hendrix College

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

2021 National Brownfields Training Conference

December 8-11, 2021,  Oklahoma City, OK
More information

The Brownfields Conference features a dynamic educational program of speakers, discussions, mobile workshops, films and other learning formats that are calibrated to provide you with case study examples, program updates, and useful strategies for meeting your brownfield challenges head on. The exceptional training offered by the Brownfields Conference has something for both beginners and seasoned professionals.

Oklahoma City was chosen for the site of the 2021 Brownfields Conference due to the exciting brownfields redevelopment happening in the city. The site of the conference, the brand new Oklahoma City Convention Center, was itself built on a redeveloped brownfield site.

The conference is also a premier stop for the private sector with a vibrant exhibit hall and other transactional activities that are catered towards companies doing the business of brownfields cleanup and redevelopment. The exhibit hall will feature federal agencies, engineering firms, developers, environmental cleanup companies, legal and financial expertise, nonprofits, and other types of organizations.

Brownfields 2021 will also feature special sessions on local economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The mess of meth lab cleanups

Read the full story at The Regulatory Review.

Regulations on decontaminating former meth labs vary across federal and state governments.

In a Refinery’s Ashes, Hope for an End to Decades of Pollution

Read the full story at e360.

An old industrial site in Philadelphia is being converted into a vast e-commerce distribution center, a trend being seen in other U.S. cities. But the developers of these brownfields must confront a legacy of toxic pollution and neglect of surrounding communities of color.

Scientists discover super plant that soaks up roadside air pollution

Read the full story at Planet Ark.

A group of researchers from the UK have identified a ‘super plant’ that could be used to soak up emissions on congested city streets. A new study exploring the effectiveness of hedges as air pollution barriers found that a shrub by the name of cotoneaster franchetii has superior air-cleaning abilities.

EPA says latest cleanup at the former Kopper’s Tie Plant site in Carbondale is complete

Read the full story in the Southern Illinoisan.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced the completion of another cleanup at the former Koppers Wood-Treating Facility at 1555 N. Marion St. in Carbondale, according to a press release dated Feb. 24. The agency required the current owner, Beazer East Inc., to address dioxin/furan-contaminated soil on 16 acres of the site.

Gov. Tony Evers seeks funds for PFAS testing, cleanup measures in budget

Read the full story in the Wisconsin State Journal.

Gov. Tony Evers is looking to boost state funds to address and monitor PFAS contamination across Wisconsin in his budget, targeting so-called “forever chemicals” that have been found in all five of Madison’s lakes.

The plan, based on recommendations from Evers’ PFAS Coordinating Council, includes allocating $20 million in general purpose revenue over the next two years to create a municipal grant program to test for PFAS at the local level, funding nearly a dozen new positions within the Department of Natural Resources dedicated to combating the chemicals and more.

Site stabilized, EPA hands off ‘green ooze’ cleanup to state environmental agency

Read the full story in the Detroit News.

A representative for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday it had completed its emergency response to groundwater contamination at the former Electro-Plating Services, having spent $3.1 million, and will pass oversight on to state officials.

“Our goal was to stabilize the site … and return the site to EGLE for long-term remediation,” said Tricia Edwards of the EPA during an online update, referring to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. She discussed over a year’s work at a “very complicated site.” 

Edwards said weekly monitoring for hazardous chemicals at the Madison Height site in recent months showed “no imminent threat to humans or the environment.”

Webinar: EPA Tools & Resources Webinar: PITT Findings on PFAS Destruction Technologies

Feb 17, 2021, 2-3 pm CST
Register here.

The presence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the environment is one of the most pressing environmental issues facing our nation. PFAS chemicals have been manufactured and widely used around the globe, including in the United States since the 1940s, to make plastics, firefighting foams and lubricants, and to help make products stain-resistant, waterproof and nonstick. The unique chemical characteristics of PFAS lead to their persistence in the environment and make their complete destruction extremely difficult. 

EPA has been aggressively working to find solutions to address PFAS issues in communities across the nation, including establishment of EPA’s PFAS Innovative Treatment Team (PITT) in spring 2020. The PITT was a six-month, dedicated full-time team of multi-disciplined EPA researchers brought together to concentrate their scientific efforts on exploring disposal and destruction options for PFAS-contaminated waste. During the PITT’s operation, the team worked together to:

  • Assess current and emerging PFAS destruction technologies being explored by EPA, universities, other research organizations and industry.
  • Explore the efficacy of these PFAS destruction technologies, including consideration of potentially hazardous byproducts.
  • Evaluate the feasibility, performance and cost of various PFAS destruction methods to better understand potential solutions.

This presentation will highlight the results of the PITT’s research and next steps for PFAS waste treatment technologies.

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