Naturalists are now able to enjoy bird-watching at a formerly abandoned facility site in Delaware after a comprehensive remediation effort.
Black & Veatch partnered with the State of Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) to go beyond their initial cleanup assignment to develop a solution that focuses on long-term sustainability and natural resource management for all living creatures in the Yorklyn Valley region.
For decades, National Vulcanized Fiber (NVF) used zinc to make a stiff paper product at a facility there. Although the plant shut down years ago, the zinc left behind contaminated groundwater.
DNREC’s Site Investigation and Restoration Section (SIRS) contracted with Black & Veatch to help remove the zinc and make the site amenable for redevelopment. At the time, NVF’s consultant had overseen the installation of a pump and treat system that was removing about 8,500 pounds of zinc a year. However, at this rate, it would take an estimated 40 years and cost the state about $14 million to solve the problem.
“Maybe there was a better way,” thought Michael Naughter, Project Manager, Federal Business.
Black & Veatch has an open contract with DNREC to oversee cleanup work at multiple sites in Delaware. Naughter and his team knew that the state was interested in incorporating park features at cleanup sites. So, the NVF team came up with a solution that would accomplish much more than just removing zinc.
The contaminated soil was along Red Clay Creek, an area prone to flooding, Naughter said. So, the NVF team suggested digging out the soil and then turning the hole left behind into a landscaped wetlands area that would help mitigate flooding, as well as provide a nature sanctuary with trails. The team designed a landscaping plan with water-tolerant trees, shrubs and grasses, and a network of trails. The plan not only satisfied the Site Investigation & Restoration Section, but also DNREC’s Division of Parks & Recreation.
In one year, crews were able to remove 340,000 pounds of zinc for approximately $2.5 million. DNREC has now installed most of the plantings, replaced an asphalt road with porous pavers, and seeded half of the area.
A testament to the Yorklyn project’s success was recently reported by the nearby Delaware Nature Center, after a DNC employee reported that, during a 23-minute visit to the NVF site, he had spotted 20 different species of birds. Among these were three Spotted Sandpipers, two fledglings and an adult. According to DNREC’s Wildlife Action Plan for 2015 to 2025, these sandpipers are classified as a Tier 2 species, which means that they have “rare to uncommon” breeding populations in the state.