Walls to Contain Pollution on Elizabeth River

Steel walls are being used to contain pollution hot spots in the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River and to protect waterfront property from contamination.

Courtesy: The Elizabeth River Project

March 31, 2013

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) - Steel walls are being used to contain pollution hot spots in the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River and to protect waterfront property from contamination.

Three separate environmental projects are using the technique at sites where factories once produced and used creosote, a tarlike wood preservative. Wastes from processing were dumped into the river or buried in makeshift landfills before there were environmental laws.

The cleanups include the Atlantic Wood Industries site in Portsmouth, the former Allied industrial site adjacent to the Atlantic Wood site, and Money Point in Chesapeake, The Virginian-Pilot (http://bit.ly/117s8Sw ) reported in Sunday editions.

A rectangular $22 million steel wall was recently completed at the Atlantic Wood site, which is managed by the federal Superfund program. The next phase involves removing toxic sediments from the river and placing them behind the wall. But the future of that phase is uncertain due to automatic federal spending cuts.

A private company, Portsmouth Elizabeth River Properties, wants to convert the former Allied site into a grain and agricultural port. A steel wall is planned to protect waterfront property where ships would come and go from creosote pollution in the river and remnant chemicals on land.

Another company, Hess Corp., is conducting the Money Point cleanup through the state's voluntary cleanup program. Hess installed about 1,100 feet of steel piling underground earlier this month near the shore to prevent groundwater contaminated with creosote waste from leaching into the river.

Work is expected to begin within two weeks on a second wall segment through wetlands and across a storm water ditch that empties into the river. The Virginia Marine Resources Commission approved the project last week. Hess officials say the two wall segments will cost about $1.9 million.

"This is a major effort to once and for all cut off a source of toxic pollution to the river," said Marjorie Mayfield Jackson, executive director of the Portsmouth-based Elizabeth River Project. "We've worked long and hard with Hess and our other partners to bring this about."

The Elizabeth River Project has supported all three wall projects. But it expressed concerns that dumping sediments behind the wall at the Atlantic Wood site would smother aquatic habitat and cover one of the last beaches on the Southern Branch.

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