Learning Lab: Soil Remediation
The Wellsville campus of Alfred State College in western New York provides an outdoor laboratory for soil remediation.
By Karla Hignite
Even in areas of the country where rainfall is abundant, concerns about stormwater runoff polluting freshwater sources can motivate action. So can Superfund site remediation.
Today the Wellsville campus of Alfred State College in western New York provides an outdoor laboratory for soil remediation. Long before the property was donated to the Educational Foundation of Alfred and turned into a campus, the site housed an oil and gas refinery dating back to 1901. A major fire closed the refinery in 1958, leaving behind significant quantities of soil contaminants, explains Julian Dautremont-Smith, chief sustainability officer at Alfred State College. (For more about higher education's sustainability efforts related to a safe water supply, see "On the Water Front" in the June 2013 Business Officer.)
A portion of the property has since been converted into a constructed wetland that captures and fully remediates contaminated runoff from the site. The system incorporates a trench of impermeable clay to trap the groundwater at the point directly before it enters the neighboring Genesee River. The water then flows by gravity through a series of natural ponds where plants filter out the contaminants before the treated water is discharged into the river.
While Atlantic Richfield Co. (a BP-affiliated company) remains responsible for cleanup efforts of the Superfund site, the company is cooperating with Alfred State on wetland operations to provide a variety of hands-on testing and monitoring opportunities for biology and environmental science students and for others enrolled in the college's School of Applied Technology, notes Dautremont-Smith. In particular, students in the electrical trades program are able to monitor pond water levels using the wetland's solar-powered telemetry system, constructed by students, to guard against overflow of contaminated groundwater.
KARLA HIGNITE, Ogden, Utah, is a contributing editor for Business Officer.