One Year After A Toxic River Spill, No Clear Plan To Clean Up Western Mines

Read the full story at NPR.

One year ago — on Aug. 5, 2015 — an EPA crew at the Gold King Mine in southwest Colorado accidentally unleashed 3 million gallons of orange water filled with mercury and arsenic.

The toxic spill flowed into the Animas River, eventually running into New Mexico’s San Juan River and into Lake Powell. So far, disaster response and water quality monitoring have cost the EPA about $29 million — and the problem isn’t over yet.

Water laced with heavy metals continues to gush out of the mine, says Joyel Dhieux of the Environmental Protection Agency. That’s why the EPA built a water treatment plant here last fall, at the cost of $1.5 million.

The Grand Calumet River – Fighting its Way Back to Life

Read the full story from U.S. EPA.

A combination of efforts by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Indiana Department of Natural Resources and Indiana Department of Environmental Management had contributed some $52 million—including funding through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the Natural Resources Damage Assessment process—to revive the area in and around Roxana Marsh. The revival involved removing upwards of 730,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment. It also involved replacing invasive, cattail-like Phragmites, with native plantings in some 25 acres of wetlands along 2 ½ miles of the Grand Cal River.

Greening-up Cleanups

Read the full post from EPA.

Just for a moment, imagine a contaminated piece of property.  There may be contaminated soil, groundwater, or waste on the site; perhaps a building needs to be demolished.  There may be nearby businesses and perhaps an adjacent stream.  Now think of the activity that goes into cleaning up that site: trucks moving about, portable generators, power needed for a treatment system, vegetation that needs clearing for site access.  The clean-up of a contaminated site has an environmental footprint of its own!

How can that footprint be minimized?   EPA worked with a broad range of stakeholders through ASTM International to develop a Standard Guide for Greener Cleanups (E2893) that reflects EPA’s Greener Cleanup Principles, including the goal of minimizing water use and impacts to water resources Exit.  While the standard is not required, EPA encourages its use at cleanup sites, and the standard is becoming more widely used by cleanup professionals.

Stimulate Bacteria to Stop Chromium in Groundwater

Read the full project summary from U.S. DOE.

Residing in wastes from former weapons production and reprocessing activities, electroplating processes, and industrial efforts to reduce corrosion in steel pipes, hexavalent chromium contaminates soil and groundwater systems worldwide. Although hexavalent chromium is readily transported in groundwater, it can be converted into a less mobile form by bacteria. Scientists at Miami University and DOE’s Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL) found that adding a specific nutrient significantly stimulates the bacteria to transform nearby iron that, in turn, reduces the chromium to a much less mobile material.

Associated publications: M. E. Bishop, P. Glasser, H. Dong, B. Arey, and L. Kovarik, “Reduction and immobilization of hexavalent chromium by microbially reduced Fe-bearing clay mineralsExternal link.” Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 133, 186-203 (2014). [DOI: 10.1016/j.gca.2014.02.040].

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 https://www.soils.org/discover-soils/soils-in-the-city.

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.