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New Sediment Decontamination Technology Shows Promise

Release Date: 02/22/1999
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(#99026) NEW YORK, N.Y. -- The day may soon come when contaminated sediment dredged from the New York/New Jersey Harbor can be cleaned and turned into a useful product, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Last fall, EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, working through the Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), awarded three contracts to demonstrate technologies designed to treat sediments dredged from the bottom of the Harbor. Underscoring the promise of these decontamination techniques, today EPA Deputy Administrator, Peter Robertson, hosted a demonstration in Kearny, New Jersey of one treatment technology, which will turn dredged material into rich topsoil.

"These technologies could turn a liability into a benefit by turning contaminated sediment into a marketable product," said Peter Robertson, EPA Deputy Administrator. "These technologies make both environmental and economic sense, and provide proof that a clean environment and strong economy are not mutually exclusive."

Col. William H. Pearce, New York District Engineer for the Army Corps of Engineers, said, "We hope that these technologies could serve as a critical component in the overall management strategy for the Port. If proven to be technically and economically feasible, their application to sediments from existing severely impacted areas of the harbor, such as the lower reach of the Passaic River, could provide multiple and long-lasting benefits to the region. By removing upstream sources for dredged material contamination, they could help restore severely impacted areas of the estuary as well as help ensure the long-term competitiveness of the Port. Toward that end, we are committed to working with the EPA in the further development and evaluation of these technologies, including identifying areas for their potential full-scale application."

In October 1998, EPA and Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory awarded three contracts, funded through the federal Water Resources Development Act, to support these promising decontamination technologies. The contracts, worth more than $2 million, were awarded to The Institute of Gas Technology of Des Plaines, Illinois; BioGenesis Enterprises of Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and Westinghouse Science & Technology Center of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The goal of these contracts is to evaluate the technical and economic feasibility of building and operating large-scale treatment facilities for dredged material at the port. The three techniques being tested are designed to destroy, remove or immobilize organic and metal contaminants, leaving clean material that can be used for everything from cement and glass tile to garden topsoil.

To date, nearly $13.5 million has been spent under WRDA to conduct 12 bench-scale studies, five pilot-scale runs, and, most recently three more demonstrations, two full-scale tests and one manufacturing test run. The technology we are demonstrating today, developed by BioGensis, is being supported with a $1 million contract awarded last fall. WRDA money has been used to support US Corps of Engineers and Waterways Experimentation Station (WES) activities, engineering designs, public outreach programs, analytical chemistry, conceptual treatment designs, and other ancillary studies.

On average, the Corps' New York District, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and private companies dredge four million cubic yards of sediment each year from the Port of New York-New Jersey to maintain channels and berths needed for ship traffic. Much of the dredged material cannot be used as remediation material at the Historic Area Remediation Site (HARS) because it contains elevated levels of metals and organic contaminants. EPA, the Corps and the states are currently evaluating the various disposal and management options, including sediment treatment.

EPA, BNL and the Corps have been exploring the extent of sediment contamination in the New York/New Jersey Harbor and have been overseeing the development and testing of new options for cleaning this sediment. Sediment cleaning options must be environmentally safe and cost-effective, and must work for the many different types of dredged material found in the harbor. In particular, decontamination processes would be especially applicable to areas of the harbor where contaminant levels are high. The technology demonstrations are expected to be completed in 1999. The high-value products created by the treatment strategies will help defray the costs and result in the beneficial use of the material.

Technology Summaries

BioGenesis has joined Roy F. Weston, Inc. to implement a sediment-washing technique. The approach uses a high-pressure water jet and proprietary chemical additives to extract both organic and inorganic contaminants from the sediments. The cleaned material is used as the basis for a fertile manufactured soil with several different applications. An initial demonstration treating 10,000 cubic yards of material will be carried out under the new contract, worth about $1 million. This technology is currently being tested in Kearny, New Jersey. BioGenesis anticipates scaling up to 250,000 cubic yards per operation by early 2000.

IGT will use a natural gas-fired thermochemical manufacturing process operating at high temperatures to destroy organic contaminants and transform the sediment into construction-grade cement. Metals are immobilized within the matrix of the product, when it is mixed with Portland cement. The blended cement can be used for general construction projects. Under the $1 million contract, an operational treatment facility capable of treating 10,000 cubic yards per year will be constructed, with plans to move to a 100,000 cubic yard per year capacity in about 18 months. IGT will begin treating dredged sediment this summer at a yet undetermined site in New Jersey.

Westinghouse will use a high-temperature vitrification process to destroy organic contaminants and incorporate the metals into a glassy matrix. The resulting glass can be used for the production of glass tiles. Under the $220,000 contract, Westinghouse will carry out studies to assess the economic feasibility of using the glassy material in the production of glass tiles. Westinghouse conducted their tile manufacturing test in Milwaukee earlier this month. They successfully produced high gloss colored tiles. Westinghouse is looking into developing a commercial-scale venture with a tile manufacturer.

For more information contact:
Mary Mears, Press Office
EPA Region 2
290 Broadway
NY, NY 10007-1866
Voice: 212-637-3669 FAX: 212-637-5046 E-Mail: