From 2019 to 2020, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Louisville District, on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency, removed more than 30,000 tons of contaminated soil and installed 857,980 square feet of sod at residential properties of the Jacobsville neighborhood in Evansville, Indiana.
Airborne dust, soot and smoke from manufacturing companies that once occupied the current Jacobsville neighborhood, contaminated the soil with lead and arsenic through industrial operations in the late 1800s at nearly 4,000 residential properties.
The EPA remediated about half of those at the Jacobsville Neighborhood Soil Contamination Superfund site, and the EPA asked the Corps to remediate the remaining 2,000 properties.
“The Louisville District started remediating the properties in 2019,” said Corey Knox, Louisville District Environmental Support Section project manager. “We awarded a new task order in September 2020 for $11.2 million to continue (environmental remediation) of the properties with our current contractor, Tetra Tech, until 2023. Currently, we have an Interagency Agreement with the EPA to assist with the remediation of the properties until 2025.”
Remediation is being accomplished at the Jacobsville neighborhood through excavation, disposal and backfill/restoration.
The remedial action includes excavation of contaminated soil per EPA-provided remedial designs, backfill/restoration of disturbed areas, transportation and disposal of contaminated soil, and completion of remediation reports documenting cleanup, said Dr. Robin Sternberg, Louisville District Environmental Support Section biologist and lead technical manager.
Returning the soil to beneficial use takes time, but USACE is making good on plans to restore the Indiana soil to its former health.
USACE completed a total of 188 residential soil remediations during the 2020 field season. The team also accomplished 38 of the planned 350 (estimated) residential soil remediations for the next field season during the 2020 field season work, Knox said.
Currently, the project is in the Remedial Action-Construction phase within the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act. As per epa.gov, this phase of the process includes preparing for and doing the bulk of the cleanup at the site.
While work continues to progress, there have been some impacts to safety procedures and communicating with the residents.
“The COVID-19 pandemic affected the processes to execute the work and impacted the schedule regarding the review and approval of the workplans,” Knox said. “However, the team adjusted and pushed forward to review and approve the workplans in a timely fashion. The contractor was able to complete the planned 150 property remediations at the end of the 2020 field season.”
Although the physical work has not been delayed, new safety measures are taken to protect personnel.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has not delayed the field work. However, it has affected the site health and safety plan,” Sternberg said. “Temperatures of site workers are taken during morning safety briefings, and site workers must always wear masks while on site. Contactless communication with property owners (e.g., phone calls, mailings) is now preferred over in person interactions.”
One key factor of safety and to the continued remediation progress, is having an onsite representative available.
“The Louisville District has an onsite project engineer/construction representative residing in Evansville, who reaches out to reluctant property owners to allay their concerns,” Sternberg said.
Not only does Brett Smith, Louisville District project engineer/construction representative, reach out to the residents, he ensures health and wellbeing protocols are followed. Brett monitors the overall remediation at the residential sites and is responsible for the coordination back to the Louisville District when historical artifacts (e.g. cisterns, old building foundations, etc.) are encountered during excavation activities.
“Brett has added additional tasks to ensure the workforce is not only protecting themselves from the harms of the work, but also protecting themselves, their co-workers and the property owners from the risk of contracting COVID-19,” Knox said. “This has taken additional effort to ensure safe practices are being followed and to obtain and maintain trust with the property owners.”
The Louisville District and the contractor are planning for the 2021 field season to begin in the spring, weather permitting.
According to Knox, the Jacobsville Soil Remediation Superfund site is a large remediation project within the Louisville District’s area of responsibility that is being executed by using a complex cost reimbursable contracting tool.
“Projects of this nature benefit the Louisville District, specifically the Superfund program, by demonstrating to outside stakeholders that we have the resources, knowledge and capabilities to manage and execute high-profile environmental projects,” Knox said.
Cleaning up past environmental contamination is paramount for the safety, health and welfare of the people living in this area.
“The Louisville District is effecting change in the everyday lives of Evansville residents by making their community a healthier place to live,” Sternberg said.