Somewhere in Davis, California the ghost of a dog is smiling. The notorious Frontier Fertilizer Superfund site in that city was supposed to take 150 years to clean up using energy-gobbling pumps and treatment equipment. The contamination started back in 1972 but only came to light in 1983, when a hapless dog died of pesticide poisoning after falling into pit at the site. Efforts to clean the site started in 1992 and was estimated at 150 years. Now, thanks to a newly completed solar array and remediation system, the rest of the cleanup will cost less money, reduce carbon emissions, and take only 30 years.
Solar Powered Cleanups
The EPA’s green remediation strategy sets out to change the equation for site clean-up. In a conventional clean-up, petroleum-powered equipment is needed to get rid of soil and water pollution, but that involves carbon emissions and other forms of air pollution. The green strategy aims for 100 percent renewable power and other forms of conservation. The goal is to get things done faster, too. One good example is a site in Texas, in which rooftop solar panels run fans that vent fumes from homes afflicted by vapors from an underground plume of tricholorethene. The equipment took only hours to install and immediately reduced vapors in the homes by 95 percent, compared to the long, expensive slog it would have taken for conventional remediation.
Green Remediation and Green Jobs, Too
EPA’s new strategy also recognizes that many classified sites are located near economically distressed populations, so it focuses remediation on creating new green job opportunities for local residents, and new opportunities for local businesses, too. In addition, EPA has a whole remediation program geared toward reclaiming Superfund sites and brownfields to construct new clean energy facilities that create new green jobs.
The Frontier Fertilizer Cleanup
For those of you wondering why EPA deserves more, not less, funding, here’s your answer in two words: Frontier Fertilizer. The company was dumping pesticides and fertilizers in unlined tanks and basins, resulting in a toxic mess that has spread horizontally and vertically, and risks leaching into the the city of Davis’s water supply. Cleanup operations have been going on since 1992 with conventional groundwater pumping systems. They provided some treatment but failed to stop the spread of contamination and required ongoing repairs and improvements along with the aforementioned carbon emissions. Designs for a more expansive and reliable system began in 2003.
Stimulus Funding for Site Cleanup
With help from the Recovery Act, the new system includes a half-acre solar panel array installed by a small local company, right in line with EPA’s local green jobs strategy. The new remediation equipment uses electrical resistive heating, which zaps polluted soil and water to the boiling point, generating gases and liquids that can be decontaminated. Future plans include the possibility of using treated water for irrigation. It’s been a long road but at least the end is in sight.
Image: Dog in the sun by rse75 on flickr.com.
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