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Riverbank Stabilization of Lead-Contaminated Soils Using Native Plant Vegetative Caps

In the Schuylkill watershed in Berks County, PA, sits a small borough named Hamburg. During the 1940s and 1950s, crushed automobile battery casings, containing high levels of lead, were used as fill in and around Hamburg. Several of the fill areas were along the eastern bank of the Schuylkill River and the Schuylkill River Canal. Remediation actions at three fill areas utilized native plants, slope stabilization, and soil caps.

The Berry Property was a flat, wooded area adjacent to the river. The Hamburg Playground consisted of a steep wooded slope between the river and the parking lot for the municipal park. The Port Clinton Avenue site consisted of flat and sloped, wooded, and old-field areas between the canal and Port Clinton Avenue. At each of the three sites, some of the contaminated soils were excavated and the remainder was graded and capped. The clean soil cap was then covered with an erosion control mat, seeded with native grasses, and planted with native shrubs.

At the Hamburg Playground and Port Clinton Avenue site, the existing trees and much of the existing vegetation were maintained to preserve the slope stability and the natural environment. Great care was taken to ensure community access to the municipal park. Some of the important considerations included retaining the existing trees, dealing with invasive species, maintaining the plants during a drought, and channeling storm-water runoff.

The actions resulted in a stabilized slope with channelized storm water to control erosion and protect the river, a clean soil and plant cover that eliminates exposure to human and animal receptors, and an aesthetically pleasing and usable area that meets the needs of the community and the local conservation/environmental organization.

Success was Achieved Working with Many Partners:

Region 3 | Mid-Atlantic Cleanup | Mid-Atlantic Brownfields & Land Revitalization

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