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


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

Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player

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.
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.
White House Announces Presidential Memorandum for Pollinators

On June 20, 2014 the White House announced the first comprehensive pollinator initiative across the federal government. The Presidential Memorandum brings federal actions to the pollinator issue that will increase collaboration, solid science, practical management, and essential research goals. The Pollinator Partnership, a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection and promotion of pollinators and their ecosystems, acted as a resource as the White House brought stakeholders together and canvassed federal departments and agencies. Among the directives in the memorandum are actions increasing forage on federal lands, assessing the effects of pesticides including neonicotinoids, landscaping federal facilities for pollinators, and educating the public about pollinators. Details about the Presidential Memorandum were shared at a Pollinator Briefing in Washington, DC organized by the Pollinator Partnership in collaboration with the Congressional Pollinator Protection Caucus. The briefing featured speakers from the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Forest Service. The newly-formed Business for Bees was also introduced. It is a collaboration to support pollinators that brings "business know-how" to cooperative conservation.
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!
Using Soil Amendments to Reuse Urban Land Presentation Now Available

Michele Mahoney, OSRTI, spoke on "Using Soil Amendments to Reuse Urban Land" as part of the Local Food Systems Conference in 2010. The conference aimed to bring together both academics and practitioners to share their knowledge, experience, and expertise with regard to developing and maintaining local food systems in old industrial regions. EPA published several papers that discuss remediation, reuse, and revitalization of contaminated properties using soil amendments. This presentation molds together these papers to discuss how old industrial sites with potential contamination can be remediated and revitalized using soil amendments.

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

Top of Page

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.

Top of Page

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