EPA Task Force Cleans Up Contaminated Areas for New Construction

The Superfund Task Force is reviving contaminated areas across the country in the hopes that they can be redeveloped.

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Early last week the EPA released a final report on its Superfund Task Force, a two-year long effort to clean up and restore hazardous waste sites. The project was focused on revitalizing areas in communities that were previously uninhabitable or unusable, with four clearly stated goals:

  1. Expediting cleanup and remediation.
  2. Re-invigorating responsible party cleanup and reuse.
  3. Encouraging private investment.
  4. Promoting redevelopment and community revitalization.
  5. Engaging partners and stakeholders.

Some of these previously contaminated sites have already been slated for development. According to KPIX News, one location in Mountain View, California, is already an active construction site where 22 townhomes and four detached homes are being built.

“Working with EPA, Mountain View was able to tell people ‘It’s OK to live here.’ There is still some cleanup going on, but it’s been cleaned up well enough,” said Lenny Siegel, former mayor of Mountain View to KPIX.

Underground aquifers beneath Mountain View were polluted by an industrial degreaser called trichloroethylene (TCE) leftover from activity in the area by the semiconductor industry. As that polluted water evaporates, the TCE becomes an airborne toxin that can be especially harmful if it accumulates inside of buildings.

To combat the TCE, the EPA has been injecting a substrate into the ground at the Mountain View Superfund site that encourages the growth of a certain bacteria that will eat the TCE toxins. The EPA has also planted a grove of trees in the area that have been uniquely created to consume TCE.

The redevelopment of Mountain View is a perfect example of what the EPA hopes to achieve with these Superfund sites.

“The ultimate measure and goal of the improvements to the Superfund Program is how well the affected communities we serve are transformed by reclaiming and returning land to productive use,” said Peter Wright, assistant administrator in the EPA’s Office of Land and Emergency Management.

TCE isn’t the only air pollutant construction pros need to know about. Learn more about asbestos here.