The Remediation of Brownfield Sites

Around the United States, many lands lie abandoned and wasted because potentially hazardous contaminants may be present in the soil or groundwater. But hope of reinvestment is not lost for lands such as these, known as brownfields. In Pittsburgh, Pa., for example, many former steel mill sites have been converted into high-end residential, shopping and business areas. One area in Pittsburgh, known as Nine-Mile Run, was formerly a dumping area for industrial slag, a waste product of steel processing. The Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), with help from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, assessed and redeveloped Nine-Mile Run and another, smaller tract of land into valuable residential property.

Papa John's Stadium in Louisville, Ky., was constructed on a 92-acre former industrial site that was contaminated with chemicals and petroleum during almost a century of use as a railroad repair yard. One hundred cubic yards of soil were contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and 47 constituents were addressed, including lead, arsenic, and chromium. The initial estimated cost of the remediation was $40 million, but the final cost was just under $7 million, after a risk assessment and the implementation of a cleanup and containment plan.

Similarly, the Jenkins Valve Site in Bridgeport, Conn., was once an abandoned 18-acre area with industrial contamination. In 1994, the city used an brownfield pilot assessment grant from EPA to evaluate the extent of the contamination at the site. Today, the former brownfield is now Harbor Yard, a sports complex with a 5,500-seat baseball park, an indoor ice skating rink, an arena, and a museum.

All over the country, there are brownfield sites waiting to be cleaned up and reused. EPA estimates that there are more than 450,000 brownfields in the United States alone. Most commonly found in urban areas, brownfield sites are contaminated properties that have been previously used for industrial or commercial purposes. Brownfields can be abandoned factories, mills, foundries, and even gas stations. Brownfield land is often contaminated by low concentrations of hazardous wastes, such as hydrocarbons, pesticides, or heavy metals, such as lead. In the United States, the investigation and cleanup of brownfield sites is regulated by state environmental agencies in cooperation with EPA, which often provides technical help and some funding for the assessment and cleanup of brownfield sites. Through the Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act, funds from the federal government help with the cost of cleaning up these sites.

Numerous organizations may play a part in the cleanup and redevelopment of a brownfield site. State environmental agencies, community groups, technical consultants, legal counsel, investors, real estate professionals, and federal government agencies are just a few of the groups that may be involved in the remediation of brownfields.

Gauging Cleanup Costs
The actual cost of the cleanup is dependent on a variety of factors, including the level, type, amount and extent of contamination in the soil. For example, if the groundwater beneath the site is also contaminated, the cost of cleanup will likely be higher. Similarly, the time it takes to clean the site varies. Brownfield sites with extensive contamination that will be reused for residential purposes will take longer to clean than sites with minimal contamination that will be reused for industrial purposes.

There are many advantages for property owners who clean up and reuse their brownfield properties. Often, it is borderline impossible to sell a brownfield site as is or even to receive a bank loan with a brownfield site as security. Cleaning up brownfields helps property owners avoid potential environmental enforcement actions by regulatory agencies—actions that could result in high penalties and expensive cleanups. There are also often tax benefits for cleaning up and reusing contaminated properties, as well as increased returns from the revitalized property, which is more valuable and marketable. Remediating brownfield sites reduces the potential contamination of adjacent properties or groundwater, decreasing the likelihood of additional cleanup costs in the future. The cleanup and redevelopment of brownfield sites can encourage higher property values and stimulate job growth, as well as have a positive impact on the local economy by creating safer, healthier urban spaces.

Worldwide Recycling Equipment Sales, LLC in Moberly, Missouri, has previously designed systems able to process from as little as 1 ton per hour to 25 tons per hour of contaminated soil per hour. One such system, the Vulcan® Indirect Fire Thermal Desorption Unit, is designed to remediate contaminated soils. Consisting of an indirect heated kiln with four independently controlled heat zones, the Vulcan® Indirect Fire Thermal Desorption Unit comes complete with a vapor recovery system for recovering petroleum hydrocarbons or other valuable organics from the feed material. The vapor recovery can be adjusted to suit specific projects and processes.

In the Vulcan® Indirect Fire (Electrically Heated) Thermal Desorption Unit, the material is fed to a live bottom feed hopper mounted on a pugmill. From the pugmill, the material is transferred to the feed auger via a transfer auger. The drum can reach an operating temperature of 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit. Vapors from the contaminated soil are pulled out of the system in a countercurrent direction to the material flow. The treated, dried material is discharged to a water-cooled discharge auger. The vapors can be oxidized at temperatures of up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit in order to destroy contaminants. A variety of scrubbers can also be incorporated to clean up chlorines, sulfurs, dioxins and other compounds. Cleaning up and reusing brownfields increases local tax bases, creates job growth, makes use of existing infrastructure, reduces the necessity to develop open land, and improves and protects the environment.

About the Author
Savannah Cooper is a writer/copy/social media specialist with Worldwide Recycling Equipment Sales, LLC. Vulcan® Systems custom-designs and manufactures drying, calcining and thermal desorption equipment. Each system is custom built to suit the client's specific needs. Our services include setup, commissioning, training and maintenance support services over the lifetime of your project. For more information on Vulcan® Systems, visit or contact Worldwide Recycling Equipment Sales, LLC at 660-263-7575 or

Posted by Savannah Cooper on Sep 10, 2014