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


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

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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.
Supporting Pollinators at Federal Facilities

In June, President Obama issued a memorandum, "Creating a Federal Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators," that directed federal agencies to take steps to protect and restore domestic populations of pollinators. As a result, a report was released in October 2014 from the White House Council on Environmental Quality that provides guidance on how federal agencies can incorporate pollinator friendly practices in new construction, building renovations, landscaping improvements, and in facility leasing agreements at federal facilities and on federal lands. With the new guidance, Federal agencies can start taking the steps necessary to protect and restore pollinator populations now.
10th Annual Conference – SER Mid-Atlantic

The Society for Ecological Restoration (SER) Mid-Atlantic Chapter will be holding their 10 year anniversary conference of Working Together to Ecologically Restore the Mid-Atlantic Region March 26-28, 2015 at the University of Delaware. The focus this year will stretch the whole of the Mid-Atlantic Region, from the Coastal Plains to the Piedmont provinces, from the Maryland, Delaware and Virginia lowlands to the New Jersey and New York highlands and west to the mountains of Pennsylvania and West Virginia. This celebration spirit will be incorporated into the traditionally strong technical agenda that is currently in the planning stages.
Summer 2015 Stream Restoration Workshops

The University at Buffalo (UB) will offer two workshops in stream restoration over a one week period in 2015. The first workshop is "Fundamentals of Stream Channel Design" which will take place June 1-2. The second workshop is "Watershed Management Planning, Assessment, and Monitoring" which will take place June 3-5. These workshops are geared toward graduate students and working professionals. Registration will open in late 2014/early 2015.
6th World Conference on Ecological Restoration

The Society for Ecological Restoration (SER) is calling for for symposia, workshop and pre-conference training course proposals for the 6th World Conference on Ecological Restoration. SER2015 will be held in Manchester, England from August 23-27, 2015, with pre-Conference Training Courses taking place at Manchester Metropolitan University on Friday, the 21st and Saturday, the 22nd of August. The conference theme is Towards Resilient Ecosystems: Restoring the Urban, the Rural and the Wild. The deadline for proposal submissions is December 12, 2014.

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

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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.

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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