Joy in Mudville

by Tom Damm

Photo: Courtesy of Jim Bintliff

If you were lucky enough to catch one of the record number of home run balls hit in Major League ballparks this year, you may have noticed that the ball didn’t look brand new – that there was some sort of film over it.  Mud to be exact.

All baseballs used in the professional leagues are rubbed up before games with mud found only at a secret location along a tributary of the Delaware River.  It’s been that way for decades.

After a batter was killed with an errant pitch in 1920, the search was on for a substance to give a fresh baseball a better grip without altering its integrity.  Chewing tobacco juice and infield dirt mixed with water were among the remedies tried to no avail.  In 1938, Lena Blackburne, a coach for the old Philadelphia Athletics, found mud with just the right composition at a spot off the New Jersey side of the river.  And it’s been used ever since.

What makes this mud so special?

“It’s two very simple things,” says Jim Bintliff, who has continued the family mud supply operation his grandfather started with Blackburne.  “It’s the geology and the geography.  The mineral content of the area is unique and there has to be a certain flow to the waterway that allows for sediment and decomposition (of the organic matter) and all that good stuff.”

As to claims by some pitchers that this year’s World Series balls seem slicker than usual, Bintliff says, “They’re using the same mud they used during the (regular) season.” Bintliff supplied the Dodgers and Astros and the rest of the teams with their mud allotments in March.

Bintliff says that in addition to all the pro baseball teams, he provides mud to “probably half of the NFL teams,” as well as to a posh Philadelphia spa and an assortment of college and recreational leagues.  He also uses it as a home remedy for poison ivy and bee stings.

According to Bintliff, the skimmed mud is strained of foreign objects and then cured for about six weeks.  A proprietary ingredient is added to the mix to give it the right feel.  The texture of the finished product is like thick pudding.

The rubbing mud is an unusual, though representative example of the “ecosystem services” provided by the Delaware Basin.  The basin is a focus of cleanup and preservation efforts by two EPA regions, four states and a host of other partners.

So, while the Phillies team didn’t make the playoffs this year, the Philadelphia area was represented in the post-season by a touch of the Delaware on the cover of every baseball.  Little solace to fans, but a handy bit of trivia.

 

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 views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

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Partners in Progress

by Tom Damm

In a room inside Talen Energy Stadium normally reserved for Philadelphia Union soccer player interviews, EPA and a group of partners had a game-changing announcement to make earlier this year.

It had nothing to do with soccer but a lot to do with goals – goals for the City of Chester, Pennsylvania to prevent flooding in its neighborhoods, revive its economy, and reduce stormwater pollution impacting its local creeks and the Delaware River.

EPA was joined by Chester, state, and private sector officials to announce a Community-Based Public-Private Partnership, or CBP3, to plan, finance, build and maintain up to $50 million in green stormwater infrastructure in Chester.

The Chester Stormwater Authority and its private partner, Corvias, have plans to transform the face of the city, turning hundreds of acres of hard surfaces into absorbent green spaces and working with small, minority-owned businesses to generate hundreds of local jobs in the process.

Green Infrastructure not only helps prevent stormwater runoff and localized flooding, it creates safe walkable communities that enhance the quality of life for the people who live there. The green features will mimic nature and allow stormwater to soak in rather than rush into streets and nearby waters carrying trash, bacteria, heavy metals and other pollutants.

As the speakers took turns at the podium, the launch of the partnership was met with great joy, appreciation and more than a few Amens from Chester residents.

Chester officials called it an opportunity to “turn the page” in their distressed city.  Corvias praised the city’s “courage” to try a new approach.  And the state infrastructure finance agency, PENNVEST, confirmed a $1 million grant to kick-start the effort.

EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region provided technical and planning assistance to help design and develop the partnership, led by our Water Protection Division Deputy Director Dominique Lueckenhoff.   She was instrumental in developing the prototype for the concept – the successful CBP3 in Prince George’s County, Maryland – and has written a playbook for other local governments to follow.

Since the launch event, the Chester Stormwater Authority Partnership has developed a Long-Term Implementation Plan and conducted six community meetings to roll out the plan, with significant local attendance and input.  Five more meetings are scheduled in the coming months.  Feedback from the meetings is being used to determine the priority order of projects.

 

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 views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

If Your Private Well Has Been Flooded…

by Catherine Magliocchetti

EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region is home to millions of residents who rely upon private wells for their drinking water supply.  As local conditions and weather may present the prospect of moderate and major flood conditions for many of our communities, owners of private wells are reminded to take the following actions:

If a well has been flooded (i.e., if flood waters have surrounded and/or submerged your well head):

  1. Do not drink or wash with the water until the well has been serviced, disinfected and confirmed safe.
  2. Avoid electrical shock – stay away from the well pump and turn off the well pump circuit breaker.
  3. Contact your local health department or other local officials for recommendations on how to test and confirm that flood hazards have been resolved.  Local government offices can often assist homeowners in finding certified laboratory resources, especially for bacterial testing, which is anticipated following flood events.  Local officials may also be able to advise if other parameters should be investigated, following a flood event (e.g., agricultural areas may want to test for the presence of fertilizers or pesticides.
  4. Seek a qualified well contractor or pump installer to assist with the following:
  • Clean, dry and re-establish electrical service to the pump.
  • Disinfect and flush the well to remove any contamination that entered during the flood.
  • Perform any other necessary maintenance so that your well pump can return to service.  Note that excess sediment in water can cause pump damage and even failure, so use of professional contractors is recommended for assessment and correction of pump function.

As a private well owner, you likely also have an on-lot septic system, which may also have been impacted by flood waters.  Keep in mind that flood events will impact your septic drainfield, and could also potentially damage pumps or other parts of your septic system.

Faulty septic systems and drainfields can negatively impact your well water quality down the road, so have your septic system evaluated by a professional following a flood, to ensure normal operation has returned.

For more information, watch this video on well flooding from the National Ground Water Association (NGWA).

 

About the Author: Cathy Magliocchetti has been with EPA Region III for more than two decades.  She currently works on wellhead and source protection of drinking water.   She is a certified Penn State Master Well Owner and a member of her local environmental advisory council.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Invertebrate Investigators

by Jon Markovich

In the previous Healthy Waters blog, my colleague Micka Peck wrote about the stream sampling we did for benthic macroinvertebrates. Pulling on a pair of waders and kicking around in the stream sampling was only half the fun.  After the outdoor fieldwork, I changed wardrobe from field gear to lab coat. Ok, I didn’t really wear a lab coat, but I was in a lab processing the preserved macroinvertebrates for later identification.

It’s been established that macroinvertebrates are good indicators of water quality conditions. Identifying which macroinvertebrates are present in a stream sample provides a link to determining whether a stream has good water quality and supports a healthy aquatic community.

One sample collected from a stream can have hundreds, even thousands, of macroinvertebrates. Thankfully, my target was to process a small sub-sample – around 200 individuals. This involves spreading the entire sample onto a gridded pan, randomly selecting a grid and removing all materials within it, and “picking” through the leaves, dirt, gravel, and other debris to separate out macroinvertebrates. At times, it felt as though I was playing a game of “Where’s Waldo?” In this case, “Waldo” could have no tails, two tails, or three tails, gills or no gills, or a whole number of different features. Sorting through these samples is no joke – it takes serious skill to quickly pick out bugs from non-bug debris. But after they’ve been picked from the sub-samples, the macroinvertebrates are identified under a microscope.

Looking under the scope, I marveled at these creatures. The different features and shapes of each bug were jaw-dropping. One bug, a burrowing mayfly in the family Ephemeridae, has protruding tusks on the side of its mouth like an elephant. The tusks help this family of mayfly to burrow into soft sediment to feed. Another bug, a dragonfly in the family Aeshnidae, had a hinged-mouth that extended to be nearly half the length of its body! Dragonfly larvae are predatory and this super-extendable mouthpart allows them to quickly snap up prey. These kinds of distinguishing features and characteristics are what scientists look at under the microscope for macroinvertebrate identification.

Although they look way cooler under a microscope, you don’t need one to see macroinvertebrates. If you have the chance, go check out your local stream, flip over rocks and search the stream bottom. You too could become an invertebrate investigator!

 

About the Author: Jon Markovich joined EPA’s Water Protection Division in 2014 and works in the impaired waters and Total Maximum Daily Load programs. In his spare time, Jon enjoys hiking, kayaking and camping in the Mid-Atlantic Region’s many great state parks.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Stream Critters Reveal Much About Water Quality

by Micka Peck

I was never a huge ‘bug person’ as a kid. It wasn’t that I bolted in terror at the sight of anything crawling my direction, but I didn’t greet a dangling spider with much enthusiasm either. My little brother, on the other hand, loved running through fields of tall grass in search of massive grasshoppers and butterflies. So, it may have come as a surprise to my family when a colleague and I eagerly set off to West Virginia in search of benthic macroinvertebrates, or the bottom-dwelling stream critters that lack backbones and are visible to the naked eye. Think insects, crayfish, worms, mussels, etc.

A couple of things piqued my interest about these creatures. I had learned that benthic macroinvertebrates are a crucial indicator for understanding water quality. While a single “grab sample” from a stream can tell you something about its water quality at that moment, macroinvertebrates are exposed to a range of conditions throughout their life stages in water. Therefore, they more accurately represent long-term conditions of water quality. Some macroinvertebrates are very sensitive to pollutants and as the water quality worsens, are less prevalent. All of our Region 3 states rely on macroinvertebrates to assess whether a waterbody is supporting aquatic life, so I thought I should go see what all the fuss was about.

We arrived at the stream bank in waders toting buckets, scrub brushes, and a large net. After surveying the stream, we chose a few spots with fast moving water and a variety of rocks and cobble, which are popular habitats due to their shelter from predators. With the net placed on the streambed facing upstream, I grabbed the scrub brush, brushed the rocks and let any attached macroinvertebrates float into the net. Next, I kicked the rocks in front of the net to stir up any macroinvertebrates hiding underneath and let the water guide them into the net. At times, it looked like I was dancing the twist in the middle of the stream. Then, I dumped the contents in the net into a bucket and marveled at the bounty. It was teeming with crayfish, scuds, larvae of mayflies, stoneflies, dragonflies, and so much more. And now, rather than feeling ambivalent, I’m filled with a sense of childish wonder at the many surprises a stream may hold.

Stay tuned for Part 2 – in the lab!

 

About the Author: Micka Peck is a physical scientist in EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region working on improving impaired waters through total maximum daily loads (TMDLs), or water quality improvement plans.

 

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Happy Holidays!

Research Recap- Holiday Edition

Due to the short work week, the Research Recap will return next week. Thank you for your interest in EPA research, and happy holidays to all!

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Upcoming Weekend Activities: NYC

Rain is letting up for the weekend, so get out and enjoy all that NYC has to offer! Check out our sustainable activity suggestions and let us know if we missed something in the comments section.

Come Out and Play Festival: Make NYC your playground (literally!), as you play free unique games all day in the park. Separate adult- and family-friendly games available. Governors Island, Saturday, July 19th, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Family Camping: Make your dream of sleeping under both the stars and the city lights a reality as you dream the night away camping out in Central Park! Limited space available and pre-registration required. Central Park, Saturday, July 19th, 6 p.m.

Freshwater Fishing: Learn about the ecology of our waterways and the ethics of fishing as you discover nature by catch-and-release fishing with Urban Park Rangers. Willowbrook Park, Saturday, July 19th, 11 a.m.

Island Hopping Canoe Exploration: Experienced canoers are invited to explore the uninhabited islands surrounding Orchard Beach Estuary with Urban Park Rangers. Pelham Bay Park, Sunday, July 20th, 9 a.m.

National Moth Week: Stay up late and celebrate National Moth Week by spending a day at the museum with hands-on exhibitions and contemporary dancers, and then follow it with a night hike to see the dark beauty of the Greenbelt in person. Kids under 12 free. Stated Island Museum, Saturday, July 19th, 8:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Natural Dyeing Workshop: Learn how to create natural, earth-friendly dyes from inedible plants you may find in your backyard or community garden. Wyckoff Farmhouse, Saturday, July 19th, noon to 3 p.m.

Nature and Birding Walk: Join Leslie Day, author of the Field Guide to the Natural World of New York City, as you learn to identify and value the flora and fauna of our urban jungle. Fort Tryon Park, Saturday, July 19th, 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

Wonderful World of Worms: Help create young naturalists by introducing the little ones in your life to the littler world of worms. Heather Garden, Sunday, July 20th, 1:30 p.m. to 2:15 p.m.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Ecofriendly Weekend Activities

Summer in the city is in full swing, so get out and enjoy all that NYC has to offer! Check out our sustainable activity suggestions and let us know if we missed something in the comments section.

Back to the Beach: Bring your bathing suit to this beachside festival featuring live music, games, and rides. Midland Beach, Saturday and Sunday, July 12 & 13, noon to 8 p.m.

City of Water Day Festival: Enjoy free ferry rides, boat tours, activities, kayaking, and live music as we celebrate the water that surrounds us and brings us together. Governors Island, Saturday, July 12, all day.

Family Bird Watching Tour: Create young naturalists as your family learns to identify the 200 species of birds who, at least for a little while, can call Prospect Park their home. Prospect Park, Saturday, July 12, 10 a.m.

Green Team Cleanup: Beautify the park as you enjoy nature, learn about gardening, and provide essential horticultural care, including planting, mulching, and removing invasive plants. Brooklyn Bridge Park, Saturday, July 12, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Harvesting Our History: New York World’s Fair: Spend the 50th and 75th year anniversaries of the New York World’s Fair at the place where it was held, as you learn about how the historic fair influenced Queens. Queens Botanical Garden, Sunday, July 13, free from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

High Line Artsy Hours: Bring the kids to the famously unique park this and every Saturday to create free sculptures that turn and roll, and then follow it with a free guided walking tour. The High Line, Saturday, July 12, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Historic Richmond Town: Experience life before electricity on a free guided tour in this historic Staten Island town. Richmond Town, Friday, July 11, 2:30 p.m.

Stop n’ Swap: Promote reuse and reduce waste production by bringing items you no longer need and taking something new-to-you for free. Atlas Park, Saturday, July 12, noon to 3 p.m.

Weird, Wild, and Wonderful Flora: Observe the botanical world’s most bizarre flora in this exhibition featuring art created and inspired by visually striking, unusual plants. New York Botanical Garden, Saturday, July 12, free from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Yoga on the Beach: Practice this ancient spiritual and ascetic discipline in a free introductory hatha yoga session. Rockaway Beach, Saturday, July 12, 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

The Scenic Towpath of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal (C&O) National Historical Park

by Andrea Bennett

 

A biker on the C&O towpath. Photo credit: C&O Canal NHP via Flickr.

A biker on the C&O towpath. Photo credit: C&O Canal NHP via Flickr.

Recently I was in the Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O) Canal National Historical Park, on the towpath that runs between the Potomac River and the canal itself.  The C&O Canal is over 184 miles long and was constructed almost 100 years ago to transport coal, lumber and agricultural products. The families that operated the boats used mules to tow them along the canal, at a rate of 5 cents per mile. Each night, the family would pile into the boat with the cargo – and the mules!

By 1924, goods were moved by trains, and the canal was no longer used as it had been, but people still enjoyed the recreational opportunities of the towpath, which led to its declaration as a National Historical Park in 1971. Over 4 million people visit the park each year, which links Cumberland, Maryland to Washington, D.C.  Bikers and hikers can continue from Cumberland on the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) rail-trail all the way to Pittsburgh; the path also crosses the Appalachian Trail at Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia. It’s a particularly special place to visit because of the wide variety of recreational opportunities it offers: while I was birding, I saw people biking, hiking, dog walking and jogging and, down the towpath a bit, there were others camping.  The towpath is so popular because it’s in a leafy green cool forest, it’s easy to traverse, and it’s next to the beautiful Potomac River.

Knowing that the Potomac River is a drinking water source for millions, and that it is treasured for its recreation value, how can we keep the river and the park clean and healthy so that it can be enjoyed into the future?

The goal of the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin (ICPRB) is to protect the land and water resources within the Potomac River Basin. ICPRB and EPA are two members of the Potomac Drinking Water Source Protection Partnership (DWSPP), a coalition focused on protecting the Potomac River as a drinking water source.  Practices that protect this national treasure range from picking up trash and properly disposing of household hazardous waste, to maintaining wastewater treatment plants and managing stormwater runoff through planting vegetated buffers.

Partnerships like this are a valuable way to keep our rivers and watershed healthy, so that they can continue on as great places for vacations as well as important sources of drinking water.

 

About the Author: Andrea Bennett is a biologist with EPA.  Andrea enjoys birding, kayaking and playing the mandolin and she is a member of her local watershed protection team.

 

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Switch Flipped On at Largest Solar Farm on a Superfund Site

The DuPont Newport Solar Project was recently completed in December 2013 and has an installed capacity of 548 kW (Photo courtesy of DuPont USA)

The DuPont Newport Solar Project was recently completed in December 2013 and has an installed capacity of 548 kW (Photo courtesy of DuPont USA)

By Charlie Howland

I work on an EPA initiative called RE-Powering America’s Land, which encourages renewable energy development on contaminated lands, landfills, and mine sites.  I was excited to learn that the switch was recently flipped at the 10 megawatt Maywood Solar Farm on 45 acres in Indianapolis and it began pumping electricity into the grid, becoming the nation’s largest solar farm on a Superfund site.  The developer estimates that the project will reduce CO2e emissions by 13,235 metric tons per year, which is equal to the amount of carbon produced for energy use in more than 1,800 residential homes or the carbon output of 2,757 passenger vehicles. But to some folks, especially long-time EPA attorneys like me, it’s the site’s original name – Reilly Tar and Chemical – that might ring a bell. A 1982 court decision about another Reilly Tar site was one of the first to interpret Superfund’s liability provisions. The court helped determine the party responsible for paying to cleanup contamination.

The Maywood solar farm and others, such as the DuPont Newport solar farm project in Delaware, on which I recently worked, stand as examples of our efforts to help renewable energy developers. At the Newport site, a 548 kilowatt, five-acre solar installation now generates approximately 729,000 kilowatt hours of power per year — enough electricity to power about 60 homes.

There is an increasing buzz about the environmental, civic, financial and grid benefits of siting renewable energy projects on environmentally impaired lands, be they Superfund, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) or Brownfield sites. We recognize that such projects are often the best use for contaminated lands, while helping to preserve existing green open spaces. Today, we’re aware of over 100 renewable energy projects that have been developed on such sites, with over 700 MW of installed capacity. Thus far, the majority of these projects sell power back to the grid in wholesale electricity markets, and sell the accompanying Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) to utilities and interested institutions and other consumers. The remaining projects generally provide energy for onsite use. Systems range from utility-scale systems, like the 35 MW wind farm at the former Bethlehem steel mill on the shore of Lake Erie in Lackawanna, New York, to smaller scale projects that serve green remediation systems, like the 280-kilowatt Paulsboro Terminal Landfill in New Jersey.

The Reilly Tar & Chemical site in Indianapolis—now home to the Maywood Solar Farm—produced refined chemicals and treated wood products from the 1950s to 1972 (Photo courtesy of Hanwha Q CELLS and Vertellus Specialties, Inc.)

The Reilly Tar & Chemical site in Indianapolis—now home to the Maywood Solar Farm—produced refined chemicals and treated wood products from the 1950s to 1972 (Photo courtesy of Hanwha Q CELLS and Vertellus Specialties, Inc.)

In my RE-Powering work, I am often reminded of an experience I had while serving as general counsel for a renewable energy developer. The firm had learned that the township in which it had optioned a parcel of farmland for a solar project had amended its zoning ordinance, restricting solar projects such as ours to areas zoned industrial. My arguments to convince the town council to change their zoning back were unsuccessful. At the end of the evening, the mayor came to me and said, “You know, we really do like your project. But we’d rather see it on the old landfill we own, instead of on farmland. What do you think?”

This is the question that the Maywood Solar Farm helps answer for the Reilly Tar site; and it’s the same one we’re asking at other contaminated properties across the country.

About the Author: Since 1990, Charlie Howland has been a Senior Assistant Regional Counsel in Region III, specializing in cleanups under CERCLA and RCRA at private sites and federal facilities.  He serves on EPA’s RE-Powering America Rapid Response Team.  Outside of EPA he took a leave of absence in 2008 and 2009 to work for a renewable energy development firm, and he currently teaches energy law and policy at Villanova Law School.

 

 

 

 

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.