EASTHAM — Those weren’t frackers drilling for oil last week along Nauset Road at the Salt Pond Visitor Center. Instead, workers were injecting emulsified vegetable oil as a permeable reactive barrier (PRB) to change the chemistry of groundwater flowing to Salt Pond.
On the right, Brooke Paulsen, onsite project manager for Environmental Strategies and Management, checks gauges at the permeable reactive barrier installation along Nauset Road next to the Salt Pond Visitor Center parking lot. (Photo Ed Maroney)
The work is just one element of a many-pronged effort to reduce contaminants in the Nauset-Town Cove and Rock Harbor estuaries and its freshwater ponds. Rather than pursue what director of health and environment Jane Crowley calls the “expensive and arduous” traditional approach of sewering, Eastham is looking to options such as PRBs, innovative and alternative septic systems, tighter fertilizer regulation, and pond remediation.
“We generally have focused on the Salt Pond subwatershed that feeds into the Nauset Harbor estuary,” Crowley said. “It’s completely within Eastham and lends itself to trying as many nontraditional strategies as we can to improve water quality at Salt Pond.”
Near the subwatershed’s top sits the town landfill, above Schoolhouse and Minister’s ponds, two lobes of a connected water body. Groundwater flow continues past Eastham Elementary School and private homes with septic systems across Nauset Road to the visitor center and Salt Pond.
Contaminants leaving the landfill led to the provision of municipal water service in the area, allowing residents to abandon private wells. “The hookup and any costs associated with connecting to municipal water were paid by the town,” Crowley said. “The impact from the landfill is no longer a threat to the drinking water of residents downgradient.
“The hydrogeology we know about this particular subwatershed is immense,” Crowley said. “There are so many monitoring wells.” Those data informed other efforts to improve water quality, including a 200-foot PRB pilot project along Nauset Road installed by Environmental Strategies and Management (ESM).
“There are 21 points where emulsified vegetable oil has been injected,” said Crowley. “We know exactly the depth of the zone we are trying to treat and have several groundwater quality monitoring wells upgradient and downgradient. As the nutrient flow comes from upgradient areas and passes through this barrier, the reactive materials hopefully will help to biodegrade the contaminants and improve the water quality before discharge to Salt Pond.”
Orleans has installed a PRB at the Nauset Regional Middle School. According to ESM, that PRB “is achieving nitrate treatment objectives.”
With groundwater traveling about a foot a day, it will be some time before measurable effects are recorded in Eastham. But there’s more going on, including what Crowley hopes will be DEP approval this week for a pilot innovative/alternative septic system with superior denitrification capabilities. The “layer cake” system includes a layer of sawdust and sand under the leaching field.
The nonproprietary system would be installed on a property in the Nauset Harbor estuary system, just upgradient of a data-collection site. The owner “came before the board of health because he needed a variance,” said Crowley. “He would have been required to put in an alternative treatment system anyway. We are subsidizing some of the cost. The home owner was a very willing partner. He strongly believes in what we’re trying to do.
“This is a really exciting opportunity for the town of Eastham. If we can reduce nitrogen with this approach, it will be the most cost-effective for the community and the home owner.” She said construction of the pilot system would begin “immediately” after DEP approval.
Elsewhere, attention is being paid to the Schoolhouse-Minister’s pond complex, with hydroraking of excessive growths of aquatic plants last fall. “This spring, we’re working on an aeration system to go into the pond from the back of the elementary school,” Crowley said. “We’ll continue to monitor water quality and test sediments and do vegetation surveys. If necessary, we’ll determine if we need alum treatments in very limited areas,” basically the deepest portions.
The District of Critical Planning Concern that Eastham created with the Cape Cod Commission brought fertilizer regulations that restrict, for example, the time of year applications can be made. If they’re done before April 15, they cannot be absorbed and contribute to runoff. “To be very honest, I think Eastham is a different type of community than perhaps the more developed ones like Barnstable where you tend to see more fertilized lawns,” Crowley said. “I think this community does have a big appreciation of the negative impacts of improper fertilizer uses.”
If your septic system is failing, an alternative “layer cake” replacement is an option. (Image courtesy Eastham Health Dept.) Another denitrification method, using shellfish to reduce levels in ponds, is “still in development,” said Crowley. The town is keeping an eye on Orleans’s experiment in Lonnie’s Pond, which has shown promise.
Today, Crowley said, Salt Pond is “definitely impaired, significantly impaired. We know that didn’t happen overnight. We don’t expect any measures we put into place to happen overnight either. These strategies are really important for the long term. To do nothing is not the answer.”
ES&M was selected as the prime consultant for repairs to a portion of the historic Slater Mill Dam in Pawtucket, RI. The dam, built in 1792 and located on the Blackstone River, is part of the Old Slater Mill National Historic Landmark District, and was an integral part of the American Industrial Revolution and the textile industry in Pawtucket.
The repair work, consisting of the installation of temporary cofferdams, high strength tremie concrete placed in wet conditions to plug a breach in the dam, and specialty synthetic liners and concrete mats placed on the upstream side of the dam, was completed in six (6) weeks and in accordance with RIDEM and ACOE permits.
Completion of the needed repairs to the dam helps to preserve the historic significance of the dam and its importance to the interpretation of Old Slater Mill as a birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution.
In November 2018, the Baker-Polito Administration announced their new Watershed Group Monitoring Grant Program, which supports eligible volunteer watershed groups across the state to conduct baseline monitoring program activities and encourages participation of those groups who wish to build program capacity. The program is part of a $450,000 investment by MassDEP to support collaborative efforts to improve surface water quality in the Commonwealth’s rivers, streams and waterways.
“The overarching goal of this grant program is to support ongoing monitoring efforts outside the department and enhance the usability of water quality data for MassDEP’s implementation of federal Clean Water Act program requirements. The intent of this grant is to support established watershed groups with existing bacteria monitoring programs, as well as groups who wish to develop their monitoring capacity to include bacteria indicators.” This program will help increase the availability of bacteria data used to determine the condition of surface waters in Massachusetts.
Environmental Strategies & Management (ES&M) can assist Volunteer Groups with the implementation of their sampling programs, including:
ES&M’s team of experienced project managers and data managers are here to help. Please contact Joe Callahan for more information.
Joseph L. Callahan, TURP, CHMM, LSP
Environmental Strategies & Management, Inc.
273 West Main Street, Norton, MA 02766
ES&M has made significant progress in the redevelopment of a property in the Valley neighborhood in Providence for future use as Farm Fresh Rhode Island’s new food hub.
After performing initial due diligence work on behalf of Farm Fresh RI, assisting them with winning EPA Brownfield grant funding, and developing remedial action plans throughout 2016 and 2017, ES&M began the next stages of redevelopment in 2018. During the summer, two underground storage tanks, one 5,000-gallon tank and one 10,000-gallon tank, were removed. Both tanks showed evidence of leaking. Soil excavation was warranted and due to high water levels on the property, dewatering systems were put in place and impacted soil was removed. ES&M also removed soil from another area of the site where oil was present. To date, no oil has re-appeared at the property.
Currently, ES&M is assisting with storm water and civil engineering design. An engineered cap will be placed over the remainder of the impacted soil, and the new buildings will be outfitted with vapor barriers.
ES&M recently completed environmental and engineering work at the East Street Park in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.
In 2016, ES&M was contracted by Pawtucket Central Falls Development to perform Phase I & II Environmental Site Assessments of the property at the end of East Street in Pawtucket. The Site Investigation revealed concentrations of metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in soil that exceeded RIDEM standards. After determining the nature and extent of the contamination, ES&M designed a plan to encapsulate site soils with a RIDEM-approved engineered cap.
By the fall of 2018, ES&M had overseen excavation, backfilling, and capping of the site and the installation of a new pre-cast concrete retaining wall. Landscaped barriers included earthen materials, concrete surfacing, and installation of geotextile fabric and geomembrane for weed control, drainage control, and to separate earthen materials. This once inaccessible and contaminated property can now be accessed and enjoyed as a public park.
Is it safe to build on brownfields? The answer is yes! ES&M is proud to play an important role in the Farm Fresh RI success story highlighted in the linked Rhode Island Monthly article. We assisted Farm Fresh RI with three grant applications that resulted in the project being awarded a $71,720 RIDEM Brownfield Assessment Grant, a $480,000 RIDEM Brownfield Redevelopment Grant, and a $167,000 Storm Water Grant. ES&M completed the environmental assessment phase of this project and began the cleanup phase this past summer. In 2020, Farm Fresh RI plans to open the $16 million, 60,000-square-foot food hub with the goal of increasing the availability and affordability of locally sourced foods.
The article "Is It Safe to Build on Brownfields" was written by Ellen Liberman and published in Rhode Island Monthly on October 16, 2018.
Illustration below by John Rego.
As reported in GoLocalProv.com on October 31, 2018, RIDEM awarded $2.6 million in Brownfield Grants to twelve projects across six cities and towns in funding that was made available by the 2016 Green Economy Bond. Governor Gina Raimondo stated "When we’re able to clean up brownfields while also increasing our commitment to renewable energy, that’s progress we can all be proud of. Cleaning up contaminated brownfields sites is one of the smartest investments government can make. I’m committed to funding these projects quickly, and I look forward to the success stories that this latest round of funding will set into motion.”
ES&M put together three of the applications that were awarded 2018 Brownfield Grant funding.
Our client Tallman Enterprises was awarded $250,000 for remediation and development of the historic Conant Thread/Coats & Clark Mill Complex located at 390-392 Pine Street in Pawtucket. Cleanup of the 14,000 square foot former administration building is essential for its intended redeveloped as a yoga studio. Other parts of the site are intended for subdivision. An estimated 21 construction jobs and 45 permanent jobs will be created as a result of this project. ES&M conducted site investigation activities in the spring of 2018 to adequately assess the nature and extent of contamination at the site and to evaluate and identify a cleanup remedy.
Blackstone Pawtucket LLC
Our client Blackstone Pawtucket LLC was awarded a remediation/redevelopment grant of $198,217 for their continued renovation of the former riverside mill building located at 59 Blackstone Avenue in the Armory Arts District of Pawtucket. Grant funding will be used to continue to remediate and modernize this century old Blackstone Avenue property. Back in 2007, this property had a 50% vacancy rate, almost 300 broken windows, and an average square foot revenue of under a dollar per square foot. Blackstone Pawtucket LLC has spent the last decade and over a million dollars in realizing their vision for this property. The improvements completed to date have created vibrancy and activity in the neighborhood. The 2018 Brownfield Grant funding will be used to replace and install site structures such as a retaining wall, river walkway, and lighting, to roofing, window and siding improvements, and new mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems. ES&M will continue to provide professional environmental and engineering services and construction management during this project.
Gravelly Hill Road Solar Array
ES&M supported our client in obtaining a $56,000 assessment grant and a $250,000 redevelopment grant for the Gravelly Hill Road property located in South Kingstown, RI. The property is a currently vacant former septage dump. ES&M has been working in conjunction with the property owners and a solar development company to convert this former dumping ground into a 3,200-kilowatt solar farm. Once complete, the farm will produce energy for 610 homes and reduce greenhouse gas by an amount equivalent to removing 871 cars from the road.