U.S. EPA Contaminated Site Cleanup Information (CLU-IN)


U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
U.S. EPA Technology Innovation and Field Services Division

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Seedling
Ecological reuse returns polluted or otherwise disturbed lands to a functioning and sustainable use by increasing or improving habitat for plants and animals. "Ecological land reuse" is a broad term that encompasses a number of interrelated activities including the reconstruction of antecedent physical conditions, chemical adjustment of the soil and water, and biological manipulation which includes the reintroduction of native flora and fauna.
Land Application of Municipal Biosolids

In June 2014, the U.S. Geological Survey created a webpage focused on the land application of municipal biosolids. The application of municipal biosolids on land may be a widespread source of emerging contaminants to surface and ground water. The USGS scientists and their collaborators are conducting projects including: the development of analytical methods for characterizing the potential emerging contaminants in biosolids-derived composts and other products; sampling biosolids to characterize the occurrence of emerging contaminants; an investigation to assess the ability of a range of wastewater treatment technologies to remove selected pharmaceuticals and other emerging contaminants from municipal sewage; and an investigation to determine the persistence and vertical transport in the soil zone of emerging contaminants derived from biosolids applied to the land surface.
ASA, CSSA, & SSSA International Annual Meeting: November 2-5, 2014 in Long Beach, CA

The American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America will host more than 4,000 scientists, professionals, educators, and students at the 2014 International Annual Meeting, "Grand Challenges—Great Solutions."
Contaminant Uptake in Food Crops grown on Brownfield Sites: September 26, 2014

This webinar will highlight the latest Kansas State University research data on contaminant uptake by food crops grown on brownfields across the U.S. sites slated for community gardens. Three urban community garden sites located in Kansas City, Missouri; Tacoma, WA; and Indianapolis, IN will be used as examples.
Conference on Ecological and Ecosystem Restoration (CEER): July 28-August 1, 2014 in New Orleans, LA

CEER is a Collaborative Effort of the leaders of the National Conference on Ecosystem Restoration (NCER) and the Society for Ecological Restoration (SER). It will bring together ecological and ecosystem restoration scientists and practitioners to address challenges and share information about restoration projects, programs, and research from across North America. See http://www.conference.ifas.ufl.edu/CEER2014/index.html for more information.
Application Call for Train the Trainer Webinar Series

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the United States Botanic Garden are calling for applications for the new Landscape For Life™ Train the Trainer webinar series offered free of charge this fall 2014. Bring Landscape For Life to your community by becoming a trainer. Ideal for botanic garden and public horticulture educators, master gardeners, master naturalists, garden clubs, landscape architects/designers and those interested in teaching sustainable gardening practices. The five part webinar series takes place on Tuesdays 3:00 p.m. — 5:00 p.m. central time on Oct 21, Oct 28, & Nov 4, Nov. 11, Nov 18, 2014. For more information and to apply visit http://landscapeforlife.org/train-the-trainer-webinar-series/.
Ecosystem Services EcoTools Page Now Live!

We are pleased to announce EcoTools has grown. The site now features a new page dedicated to information and resources on Ecosystem Services. Check it out today!

Why restore disturbed or contaminated lands?

Habitat preservation is key to an ecosystem's health and well-being, and there is a growing awareness that restoration is essential to recover ecosystems that have been degraded or destroyed. Furthermore, contaminated or disturbed sites that have been restored are once again available for public use and enjoyment

The public's interest in the renewal of natural ecosystems has grown steadily during the past few decades. EPA's Superfund Redevelopment Program assists communities in returning some of the nation's worst hazardous waste sites to safe and productive uses. While the Agency works to protect human health and the environment, EPA also works with communities and other partners to consider future uses for restored Superfund sites. Many sites are now being used as parkland, agricultural land, residences and commercial space.

Ecological reuse can be incorporated into site remediation plans for Superfund sites because it provides habitat for wildlife and is not considered beautification or enhancement. Returning contaminated sites to beneficial use not only allows local communities to reclaim lost land – it can also lead to increased property values, a higher tax base, and protected open space. In addition, when local interests have a stake in the revitalized property, the chances are greater for continued productive use.

Benefits of Ecological Land Reuse

  • Provides wildlife habitat
  • Sequesters carbon
  • Remediates and beneficially reuses damaged lands
  • Improves property values
  • Improves image
  • Reduces wind and water erosion of contaminants
  • Protects water resources
  • Creates green spaces and corridors
  • Improves the community by removing stigma associated with prior waste sites

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Occidental Chemical Corporation, Montague, Michigan RCRA Case Study
Occidental Site in Idaho after
Occidental Site After
Before and after photos show the transformation of a former chemical manufacturing site into thriving wetland, prairie, and woodland habitat. The closure of Occidental Chemical Corporation facility in Montague, Michigan in 1983 left behind soil and groundwater contaminated with chlorinated organic chemicals.
Occidental Site in Idaho before
Occidental Site Before

Why are ecosystems important to ecological land reuse?

Project managers seeking to return a contaminated site to a safe and productive use should look not only to the future of the site; but also consider its past structure and function by looking at the site as an ecosystem – a dynamic environment of living organisms and non-living matter intricately connected by energy and nutrient flows.

Many reuse projects focus solely on manipulating certain elements, such as soil, vegetation, and hydrology, with little attention paid to the links between these and the broader landscape and biosphere. Such actions may not necessarily address all of the ecosystem's needs. Other living organisms, such as insects, wildlife, and microorganisms also form an integral part of the system and must be accounted for, if possible, for the system to flourish. For example: many of the native flowering plant species in the United States rely on bees, hummingbirds or other pollinators to help them reproduce and disperse across the landscape. The flowers and the hummingbird have a symbiotic relationship that benefits them both – the flower produces nectar that the hummingbird feeds on, and the hummingbird carries pollen from one flower to the next, allowing it to reproduce. If a degraded site is repopulated with native wildflowers, but no pollinators are introduced into the site, the native plants may die out and be replaced by invasive species. In order to maintain desired levels of native plant diversity, the restoration and reuse process therefore must ensure that an adequate level of pollinator species is present.

Ecosystem-based reuse can be an important aspect of many remediation projects. If the goal is to return a site to a close approximation of its natural, pre-disturbance state, then an ecosystem-based approach is essential. This approach will ensure that the newly restored site once again becomes an integral part of its environment. More information can be found here: Climate Change and Ecosystems.

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Bunker Hill Superfund Site in Idaho
Bunker Hill Superfund Site in Idaho after
Bunker Hill Site After
Before and after photographs of the Bunker Hill Superfund Site in Idaho, where contamination was left on-site and capped with biosolids compost and wood ash. A long-term Operations & Maintenace plan was established to ensure that attractive nuisance issues did not exist.
Photographs courtesy of Dr. Sally Brown, University of Washington.
Bunker Hill Superfund Site in Idaho before
Bunker Hill Site Before