New Application of Old Chemistry
Bill Nye the Science Guy would be very proud of the approach Goodwin College is taking to brownfield remediation.
Scientists are taking a familiar chemistry concept and applying it in a revolutionary way to bolster the College’s efforts to clean up groundwater lying below the parking lot. The process, which involves treating petroleum contamination with hydrogen peroxide, is now being deployed on campus, with the intended result of cleaning discharge before it reaches the Connecticut River.
Geo-Cleanse, a New Jersey-based company, tested soil and prepared the site prior to beginning the process. On Tuesday, July 30, Geo-Cleanse joined Zuvic, Carr & Associates – Goodwin’s environmental engineering consultant – in demonstrating how the concept could benefit campus remediation efforts.
Goodwin is in a unique location for such an effort to be conducted. For decades, Riverside Drive was heavily industrial, with countless fuel storage tanks lining the Connecticut River. Years of petroleum storage and spills left the area polluted and the soil and groundwater contaminated.
Through grant partnerships with the Federal, State, and East Hartford government, Goodwin has worked diligently to remediate Riverside Drive and make it safe for redevelopment. The results have been exceptional, with the College opening its River Campus in 2009.
According to Martha Lemmon of Zuvic, Carr & Associates, the property has been safe for redevelopment, with no risk to those who commute to and work at Goodwin. Still, there is additional remediation that needs to be done well below the surface, where groundwater remains contaminated. Over time, the groundwater moves toward the Connecticut River, where it discharges.
Through in-situ oxidation, or ISCO, Geo-Cleanse seeks to have the groundwater cleaned well before it reaches the
river. Scientists have carefully tested soil and groundwater to identify what contaminants exist. Once the composition was determined, chemicals could be added to ground that would essentially turn the petroleum in the groundwater into water and carbon dioxide, which are easily removed.
“We evaluate the technology on a site by site basis,” said Geo-Cleanse president James Wilson.
To remove the contaminants, an oxidizer must be carefully combined with other chemicals to produce the desired reaction.
“As long as you contact an oxidant with a contaminant, you will destroy the contaminant,” Wilson said.
Wilson explained that the chemistry behind the process is not a new concept. What makes Goodwin’s remediation unique is the use of hydrogen peroxide as the oxidizing agent. The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection granted Geo-Cleanse permission to apply the hydrogen peroxide, which has been used in other states on larger scale remediation projects.
During the demonstration, Wilson played the role of chemistry teacher to explain the process. He applied a hydrogen peroxide solution to a phosphate, showing the same technology and chemical reaction that is taking place well below the Goodwin College parking lot. A sample of the contaminated water, shown pre- and post-treatment, demonstrated just how effective the peroxide is at cleaning the groundwater.
A large crowd gathered to view the demonstration including students from Goodwin’s Environmental Science program.
The chemical injection will continue through August 14, when the pilot study will end. Data will be used to determine the next step for Goodwin and whether the ISCO remediation will be applied on a larger area of the campus.