Ohio River Park Case Study
Note: EPA no longer updates this information, but it may be useful as a reference or resource.
Last Updated February 2000
Ohio River Park
Neville Island, Pennsylvania
Landfill with domestic, construction, industrial, and chemical waste
Multi-purpose recreational center with indoor and outdoor facilities
A recreational resource for the community which increased local jobs, personal income, and public revenues
In the winter of 1998-99, thousands of visitors drove over the new bridge to Neville Island, Pennsylvania to enjoy two new ice rinks, part of the recently completed Island Sports Center. The sports center and a portion of the bridge occupy 32 acres, formerly known to residents as "poison park," or the Ohio River Park Superfund site. The site has been cleaned up and transformed into a regional sports center where children and adults can enjoy skating, soccer, lacrosse, baseball, basketball, volleyball, miniature golf, a fitness center, an indoor golf training facility, and a restaurant. What follows is the story of cooperation between the EPA, the Neville Land Co., the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Allegheny County, and the local community to return the land to productive use with positive economic, social and environmental impacts.
The site sits on the western tip of Neville Island, which lies in the middle of the Ohio River, five miles from the Pittsburgh airport. It is readily accessible by highway and railroad. Beginning in the 1930s, the site served as a municipal landfill accepting domestic trash and construction debris. From 1952 through the mid-1960s, Pittsburgh Coke & Chemical Co. (PC&C), the property owners at the time, disposed of industrial waste at the site. The waste resulted from the manufacture of mineral products, specialty chemicals, and agricultural chemicals. Wet waste was disposed of in trenches, and dry waste was piled on the surface. Soils, sediment, surface water, and groundwater were contaminated with organic chemicals, pesticides, and metals. These contaminants posed concerns for the people and ecology of the island as well as for the municipal wells of the Borough of Coraopolis, across the river from the island.
PC&C ceased operations on Neville Island in 1966. The site was acquired by the Neville Land Co. Following an unsuccessful attempt to sell the land to a major oil company for use as a fuel storage facility, the owners donated the land to Allegheny County in 1976 for use as a park. After spending $2.4 million on developing the park, the county discovered the industrial waste and returned the land to its previous owner.
In 1990, the site was placed on EPA's list of hazardous waste sites needing cleanup. The Neville Land Co. took responsibility for the cleanup under the supervision of EPA, state, and county officials. Field investigations were interrupted in 1991 when EPA agreed to the island township's request to make part of the site available for replacing the old, unusable Coraopolis Bridge, prior to addressing the balance of the cleanup. When the cleanup resumed, workers removed contaminated soil, and covered concentrated waste with a multi-layer cap and the balance of the site with an erosion cap. They isolated subsurface contamination, built an underground slurry wall, and added earth to raise the ground level. Restrictions on the use of the property were placed in the deed. In 1998, the developers began construction of the sports center. That same year, EPA decided on a program of monitored natural attenuation of groundwater.
The winter of 1998-99 was the first full season of operations for the two indoor ice rinks. On a typical busy day, about 2,000 participants and spectators came for figure skating and ice hockey. Local teams of all ages used the rinks for practice and competitive games. The facility has already hosted the 1999 Junior Olympics, and professional teams have shown interest in its use. The property owners anticipate one-half million visits annually at the sports center.
The Ohio River Park Superfund site, a once blighted property, is now an aesthetically pleasing recreation area with a new bridge for easy access to and from Neville Island. The center employs about 70 employees and hosts thousands of visitors daily. This activity generates personal income and public revenues. Cleanup and redevelopment of the site is protecting the people and environment of Neville Island and the Coraopolis water supply. The project has also sparked interest in Neville Township to consider a comprehensive redevelopment plan for the island. Completion of the sports center has reignited rezoning discussions in the adjacent community of Coraopolis to encourage light industrial and commercial redevelopment. The Island Sports Center is bringing a new level of energy to the community of Neville Island.
Keys to Success
The cooperation among the EPA, the Neville Land Co., the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Allegheny County, and the local community were key to the success of the redevelopment of the Ohio River Park site. The partnership enabled the community to expedite the construction of the bridge connecting the island with the mainland, without having to wait until the environmental conditions at the site were evaluated. This cooperation also led to a comprehensive cleanup that minimized future environmental and health risks and the construction of a much-needed commercial and recreational facility.
For more information about the cleanup and redevelopment of the Ohio River Park site, contact:
U.S. EPA- Region 3
1650 Archer Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103-2029