takes holistic approach
by E. Franklin Dukes
students (left to right in white coats) Caroline Brennan,
Ginger Watkins, Lauren Noe and Irene Boland listen to EPA
Remedial Project Manager Christian Matta at the Ordinance
Works Disposal Area in Morgantown, WV. Also, at far right
is Leo Argaugh of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
By Jane Ford
Chemical was a vital part of the Hagerstown, Md., community for
almost 50 years. But the former pesticide and fertilizer blending
and storage facility closed in 1984, and it later was declared
a Superfund site. Fences now separate it from the community that
once embraced it.
is far from alone. More than 1,233 sites are on the Environmental
Protection Agencys National Priorities List, and communities
that want to transform them from toxic threats back into community
resources face an almost overwhelming challenge fraught with complexity
and the stigma of chemical contamination.
addition to the scientific and financial issues involved in a
cleanup, communities must address legal, cultural, technological
and land-use matters.
A new center at U.Va. created with a grant from EPA of
$600,000 $200,000 a year, renewable for three years
is helping by taking a holistic view of reclaiming these sites.
The research will help the EPA and individual communities better
understand the dynamics of the process and facilitate the successful
reclamation of the sites.
is the first time a truly interdisciplinary team is taking a look
at Superfund site reuse issues, said John Harris, national
program coordinator for Superfund redevelopment at the EPA.
Cannon, professor of law and director of the center, said, The
focus in recent years has been on putting these sites back into
productive use. They represent resources that communities can
use to build schools, factories, apartment buildings, commercial
space or sports fields. We are going to be looking at these sites
and developing information and options for how these sites can
be developed and expanded.
interdisciplinary center, in its second year of operation, includes
a team of 12 faculty members and students from law, architecture,
commerce, engineering and the College of Arts & Sciences.
input from the EPA, the center identified six sites around the
country that represent different contamination issues. Members
of the cen-ter will share research and resources through workshops,
conferences, publications and the centers Web site (http://www.virginia.edu/superfund).
educational component of the center includes not only public outreach,
but also the inclusion of students on the centers team.
Bargmann, associate professor of landscape architecture, organized
a lecture series last spring to explain the expertise of the centers
members and introduce the issues to students and others in the
University community. She is teaching a landscape design studio
that is investigating solutions to one of the six center research
whos been working to reclaim industrial sites with her design
firm, D.I.R.T. (Design Investigating Reclaiming Terrain), believes
it is important to understand the complexity of weaving these
sites back into the communities.
Students see that what they need to become is educators
to translate, re-interpret and reveal the capacity of the
landscape, she said.
her work in the center, Janet Herman, professor of environmental
sciences and an expert in the geochemistry of groundwater, said
that major challenges are not only communicating between technical
and non-technical disciplines, but also influencing decisions
made during the reclamation process. She emphasizes to students
that if they want their research to contribute to creating a better
environment, a better life and a better world, they need to communicate
the cultural side of technical questions.
of Hermans students, Melissa Kenney, a May environmental
sciences graduate, created a computer model based on one of the
sites as her distinguished major thesis. Kenneys cost-benefit
analysis places values on issues such as clean aquifers, reducing
global warming, scenery and protecting drinking water.
model adds perspective on various options and helps focus thinking
about the process of remediation. Kenney worked with Herman and
environmental finance expert Mark White, associate professor of
commerce and a center member.
was great to be able to work on such an amazing study in its initial
phases and work with faculty from so many different disciplines,
said Kenney. It gave me a taste of what interdisciplinary
research is like.
Franklin Dukes, director of the Institute for Environmental Negotiation
in the School of Architecture, is an expert in facilitating dispute
resolution and public participation processes. Next spring, he
will teach a class that will work on guidelines to facilitate
community meetings that would enable Superfund stakeholders to
envision new opportunities for contaminated sites.
a process of education and awareness bringing people together
to look at the cultural and social aspects and to communicate
and resolve issues of identity and reuse, Dukes said.
associated with Superfund sites who are not part of the centers
research are starting to seek out their expertise, Dukes said.
There is a growing interest in the expertise of the center.