City of second chance soils

Read the full story from the American Society of Agronomy.

On the South Side of Chicago, East 87th Street ends in a gentle curve more suited to a suburban neighborhood than a gritty industrial area. A few steps further and you’re at Lake Michigan’s shoreline. Welcome to Steelworkers Park.

Once the world’s largest steel working mill, the property was literally built from the waste product of the steel industry: slag. This hard, gravelly scrap was dumped to fill in the natural marsh along the lakeshore. When U.S. Steel’s South Works closed in 1992, the deep and unforgiving slag infill remained.

The “City of Big Shoulders” found itself the owner of an abandoned slag brownfield along Lake Michigan’s shoreline, less than 10 miles from downtown. The area is also part of the Calumet Region—a confluence of three rivers into Lake Michigan. Chicago’s 1909 vision to keep the shoreline “forever free and clear for all to enjoy” had a second chance—if it was affordable.

Enter the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. Along with the Chicago Park District, they were asked to evaluate the site and demonstrate the feasibility of rehabilitating the forbidding slag surface into parkland.

Lakhwinder Hundal, Tom Granato, and rest of the Water Reclamation District team took on the challenge. With a size of 511 football fields, the entire property would require over 63,000 dump trucks of topsoil. The cost would be prohibitive—and take good soil away from its home.

The team had a better plan. For this second-chance site, they gave resources already available, biosolids and dredged sediments, a second life. This re-purposing meant what could have been an expense was instead a blessing…

Read more about Hundal’s work in Journal of Environmental Quality. For more on confronting the challenges of urban soils, see

Developing Green Job Opportunities in Brownfields-Impacted Communities

Read the full post at EPA Connect.

The first seeds of brownfields job training—and of the brownfields program itself—emerged in the early 1990s, reflecting our growing concern for environmental equity (now known as environmental justice). Back then, we provided funds for the assessment and cleanup of abandoned and potentially contaminated sites through brownfields grants. The funds brought job opportunities to those communities where the assessments and cleanups were taking place, but there was one problem. The jobs were going to environmental professionals from other cities because, more times than not, local residents lacked the environmental training these jobs demanded.

Cost of Everglades restoration could double to $16 billion

Read the full story in the Miami Herald.

Restoring America’s River of Grass is getting expensive.

In a five-year update from the U.S. Corps of Army Engineers released Wednesday, federal officials estimated that the cost of the massive restoration effort launched in 2000 and expected to cost $8 billion has doubled to $16.4 billion. And that’s in today’s dollars.

Much of that is due to inflation, although changes in design and the addition of some projects also drove up costs, according to the report.

Effects of biochar and marble mud on mine waste properties to reclaim tailing ponds

M. A. Muñoz, J. G. Guzman, R. Zornoza, F. Moreno, A. Faz, andR. Lal (2016). “Effects of biochar and marble mud on mine waste properties to reclaim tailing ponds.” Land Degradation and Development online ahead of print. DOI: 10.1002/ldr.2521.

Abstract: The effects of biochar addition in improving soil physical properties are not clearly understood in mining tailings. The objective of this study was to determine the effects of 3 different types of biochars, in addition to marble mud (MM) and their mixtures, on the structural stability and water retention of mine wastes in Cartagena, Spain. Biochars were produced at 500 °C from pig manure (PM), cotton (Gossipium hirsutum L.) residues (CR) and municipal solid waste (MSW). Biochars were added to the mine waste along with marble mud and a control (no amendments added). These mixtures were incubated in cores for 90 days (25 °C). PM and CR mixed with MM decreased soil bulk density (from 0.98 g cm-3 to 0.89 and 0.84 g cm-3, respectively). Amendments had no significant effect on total porosity whereas they increased gas diffusion by 100%, except for MSW.Marble mud improved the plant available water from 0.59 to 2.56 cm as its combination with biochars, extremely relevant in water scarce climates. The micropores were likely replaced by mesopores when application of PM, CR, MM and biochars + MM and they improved water retention. Total carbon (TC) and total nitrogen (TN) increased by using biochars and MM and no significant effects were assessed on aggregates. In general, MM mixed with PM and CR derived biochar improved the structural stability and exhibited a strong impact in reclaiming physical quality on mine tailings.

How a Polluted Industrial Site Became Amsterdam’s Most Interesting Neighborhood

Read the full story in CityLab.

Just across the River IJ from central Amsterdam’s waterfront sits an old industrial area that once was left for dead.

The area known as Buiksloterham was home to a Fokker airplane factory, a Shell oil laboratory, a large shipbuilding industry and other manufacturing. Over time, most of the companies here either died or moved out of the area. They left behind a waterfront wasteland where the soil in some areas was polluted. After years of hoping for an industrial revival that never quite came, city leaders concluded about 10 years ago that it was time for Buiksloterham to move on.

That’s when things got interesting—and when Buiksloterham became a model for any city wrestling with what to do with a decaying industrial zone.

Lentils to battle arsenic poisoning from Bangladesh well water in new study

Read the full story from the CBC.

A professor at the University of Calgary is studying whether Saskatchewan-grown lentils can counteract chronic arsenic poisonings from well water that affect up to 77 million people in Bangladesh.

Flushed Resource Restores Ecosystem

Read the full story from the American Society of Agronomy (ASA), Crop Science Society of America (CSSA), Soil Science Society of America (SSSA).

Every city has abandoned industrial sites. Encouraging life to return to these barren areas is a challenge. It requires a healthy topsoil for plants and animals to flourish. Cities, with their heavily compacted and often contaminated soils, often struggle to restore blighted spaces. Quality soil is necessary—but not abundant in cities. Enter biosolids…

Read more about the “dream treatment” in a special section of the Journal of Environmental Quality, “Soil in the City.”