PCB contamination

Down by the Riverside

by Tom Damm

One of the ways I intend to work off my Thanksgiving excess is to bike along the Delaware River.

Washington crossing

Washington Crossing Historic Park

If it’s like the past few weekends, I’ll be carefully riding by families, couples and individuals enjoying nature on a crisp fall day beside one of the nation’s most iconic waterbodies.

On these riverside jaunts, I’ve been able to take in a little history at Washington Crossing Historic Park and window shop in New Hope, Pennsylvania, swigging from a reusable bottle filled with water that originated in the Delaware itself.  I’ve seen hearty kayakers navigating river rapids and bird watchers scanning the skies.

My neighbors have finally packed away their jet skis, but they had been out on the Delaware regularly this fall, riding the waves with wetsuits protecting them against the chilly river waters.

There are a host of recreational opportunities along the Delaware.  They’re not just great fun, they’re big business.  In fact, a University of Delaware professor estimated that recreation provides $1.2 billion in annual economic activity in the Delaware Basin.

That’s one of the reasons EPA and fellow federal, state and interstate agencies are working with non-profit groups, utilities and others to build on efforts to restore the Delaware River and counter threats from stormwater, wastewater, PCBs and other forms of pollution.

CaptureSo if you’re feeling the weight of the holidays, take a stroll or a bike ride along a stream or river near you.  It may not fully compensate for that piece of pie, but it will give you some peace of mind.

 

About the Author: Tom Damm has been with EPA since 2002 and now serves as communications coordinator for the region’s Water Protection Division.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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The Many Faces of Superfund

By Barnes Johnson

Sitting adjacent to one of the rarest ecosystems in the world—a freshwater beach dune system—is the Outboard Marine Corporation (OMC) Superfund site. Within its boundaries lies Waukegan Harbor, once called by some “the world’s worst PCB mess.” I recently traveled to the OMC site, and the visit reminded me of the multi-faceted nature of Superfund cleanups—how they affect not only the environmental well-being of a community but also its economic and social spheres.

Multiple industrial activities contributed to the OMC site’s contamination, which affects the groundwater, soil and lake sediments. These activities assaulted the harbor and surrounding area not only with PCB contamination but also industrial solvents, heavy metals and other toxic organic compounds for decades.

I went to Waukegan with my Superfund colleagues and others from EPA’s Upper Midwest Regional office to mark an important milestone in the OMC site’s Superfund cleanup: the kick-off of the final dredging to eliminate the harbor’s last vestiges of contaminated sediment. The dredging is also a critical step in removing the harbor as an “area of concern” from the list of toxic hot spots identified in the 1987 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. The effort in Waukegan is a great example of cross-office collaboration between EPA’s Great Lakes program and its Superfund program.

The land use variation surrounding the OMC site, which currently includes industrial, marine and recreational uses, brings impressive landscape texture. Once cleaned up, the City of Waukegan hopes to expand the site’s land use to include residential and retail components, aspirations which are part of the site’s overall redevelopment. This reuse will lead to economic opportunities including jobs and a broader local tax base; it will complement the economic contribution the Superfund cleanup itself has already afforded through the creation of 280 jobs.

I was also struck by the complexity of the OMC cleanup. The final dredging project, anticipated to be completed by the summer of 2013, will remove over 150,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment.

I was impressed by the substantial influence and commitment of the Waukegan citizens’ advisory group (CAG), which was formed more than 20 years ago. The CAG’s focus extends beyond the Superfund aspects of the harbor; through more than 240 meetings, the group has tackled a broad set of issues challenging the harbor’s well-being and has demonstrated its commitment to restoring both the community and this vital ecosystem.

About the author: Barnes Johnson is the Deputy Director of the Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation and has been with EPA for over 25 years in a variety of positions. In addition to Superfund, Barnes’ EPA work has included positions in the Office of Radiation and Indoor Air, and the Office of Solid Waste (currently named the Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery). He holds a masters degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Management and Applied Statistics.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.