Session D4

Innovative Phytoremediation Transforming a Historical Brownfields Site

Linda Yang, PG

4:00 – 5:30 PM ET

About the Presentation

Since the late 1990s phytoremediation of soils impacted with PAHs continues to increase in popularity. The appeal of phytoremediation lies in its inexpensive, relatively non-invasive implementation and waste reduction. Of particular interest with regard to remedy evaluation criteria, phytoremediation scores high as a green and sustainable remedy as well as providing multiple secondary benefits not realized through excavation, thermal, or other applicable PAH remedies. However, the real application of this technology has had mixed reviews due to inconsistent outcomes and long-term commitment which can be challenging. Working with a municipal client, the Terracon Chicago team developed a proprietary innovative phytoremediation approach using succession crops adaptive to northern Illinois weather and soil conditions, to address polynuclear aromatics contamination in shallow soil at a contaminated historical foundry site. 

During the design, a comprehensive review of available literature was conducted in an attempt to identify low maintenance plant species with demonstrated abilities to degrade PAHs; and ideally, degrade them in soil and climate conditions similar to the Site. ASTM E2893 Standard Guide for Greener Cleanups was also utilized during remediation design and implementation. Terracon's expert remedial design team considered plant characteristics, weather conditions, geographic soil type, end-use, community participation, and environmental footprint reduction. It also accommodated clients' funding limitations and area master planning which called for green spaces. 

The phytoremediation started in 2015 and achieved site-specific cleanup objectives in 2019, with a short timeframe. During the phytoremediation, the municipal Public Works Department provided services of mowing and planting which helped community outreach and promoted public involvement during the brownfields cleanup. Additionally, phytoremediation improved the aesthetics of the blighted site, making it a green and appealing junction near the Illinois/Wisconsin border. 

Terracon's phytoremediation transformed the historical industrial site to be an integral part of the regional green spaces, bike trails, and parks near a creek and river; mitigating environmental and public health risks and improving the underserved community's livelihood.

About the Speaker

Linda Yang, PG
Senior Principal
Terracon Consultants, Inc.

Ms. Linda Yang, P.G. is Senior Principal and Vice President of Terracon Consultants, Inc. and leads Terracon's services in the upper Midwest. She has over 25 years of environmental consulting experience specializing on site characterization, remediation, and complex program management. In the recent decade, she has focused on brownfields assessment, cleanup, redevelopment, and funding strategies. Working with municipalities and Illinois EPA, she led the brownfields green cleanup pilot study in the State of Illinois. She is constantly sought out to speak on brownfields' environmental projects and redevelopment in the United States and internationally. MS. Yang received her bachelor's and master's degrees in Geology. She is a Licensed Professional Geologist in Illinois.

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