Land Revitalization Winter '06 Newsletter – With Help from Superfund, Nature Turns Back Time at Norfolk Naval Shipyard
Turning back time to the 1700s, high-value, tidal wetlands flourish once again near the Norfolk Naval Shipyard on Paradise Creek – thanks to a recent Superfund cleanup.
The shipyard opened in 1776 in Portsmouth, Virginia. Ever since then, the shipyard has been in operation on the Southern Branch of Elizabeth River, home to native wetlands.
Wetlands are located along the Scott Center Annex, one of several Navy owned areas contiguous to the shipyard. A part of the Annex was a landfill covering 1.7 acres with an additional 5.3 acres of marshy, tidal flood plain that extended to Paradise Creek.
The former site was used during the late 1950s for disposing waste from dry-dock operations. Waste reportedly discarded in the landfill included sand and abrasive blast grit, paint residues, and sanitary wastes. The majority of material placed at the site was reported to be hydraulic fill generated from dredging the nearby waterways.
In 1999, the Norfolk Naval Shipyard was placed on EPA's National Priorities List. From October 2004 through April 2005, the Navy undertook a remedial action to remove waste, contaminated soil, and site-impacted marsh sediment. The Navy considered several alternatives, including capping, in addition to the final decision - - creating wetlands.
As a part of its Superfund cleanup the Navy removed the hazardous waste from the former landfill and created tidal wetlands. This is an important example of land revitalization, returning land to beneficial reuse.
There are several benefits to this innovative solution. The wetlands that were created will help to improve water quality and habitat along the Paradise Creek and the Elizabeth River, 15 miles from the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. The Navy is cooperating with the community and a local environmental group, the Elizabeth River Project, on what is important to them – helping to bring back the Elizabeth River. The contamination is gone and potential risks to human health and the environment are gone. Now the wetlands, including the newly-created wetlands, can thrive.
As contaminated soils were removed from the wetlands, the material was dewatered using check dams to separate the soils and groundwater. The landfill area was constructed as a tidal wetland using clean soil after the waste was removed.
The Elizabeth River is one of the eight rivers nationally designated as part of EPA's urban river pilot initiative helping cleanup and revitalize urban rivers. Also, in 2005, EPA Region 3 decided to invest in the Elizabeth River by initiating a separate pilot project to help measure environmental results.