Cities like Oviedo, Fla. are investing in the cleanup of defunct brownfield sites, converting even highly contaminated properties from liabilities to assets that pump economic vitality into their communities. And municipalities are getting reimbursed for doing so. But these ambitious undertakings require the expertise of professionals with strong environmental engineering and remediation backgrounds and an understanding of federal and state regulations aimed to protect public health and the environment.
This spring, after over two years of working closely with SCS Engineers and the development team, the City of Oviedo will unveil its redevelopment project: a 3.7-acre public park with a walking and jogging trail. The loop trail will be part of a larger trail system interconnecting through the City and the Cross-Seminole trail, with the latter running throughout the county.
The walking and jogging path surrounds a pond with a dual purpose: to serve as an added feature to this peaceful retreat and part of an enhanced stormwater management system that will allow business owners to convey drainage from their properties via an underground stormwater management system. Along the park perimeter, historical displays will tell the story of the nearly century-and-a-half-old City’s past.
SCS helped the City navigate regulatory issues associated with redeveloping environmentally impacted land, ensuring safe and environmentally sound practices, and maximizing financial reimbursement through the Florida Brownfields Program.
In the 1940s, the site operated as a farm but lay idle and overgrown with vegetation decades after. When SCS came in to complete the environmental assessment, the team confirmed that years of pesticide application did leave arsenic behind in the soil.
“It appears that the pesticides were used appropriately, but with the change in land use and to meet the state’s environmental criteria, we need to address the residuals to redevelop the property as a park. It would otherwise remain as unusable land without this cleanup,” says Kirk A. Blevins, SCS senior project manager.
SCS completed site assessment activities according to Chapter 62-780 FAC, which includes additional testing to delineate the extent of arsenic-impacted soil further and evaluate groundwater conditions. Assessment activities indicated that while not impacting groundwater, the soil contained arsenic above acceptable regulatory levels. In its next step, the team designed a remedial action plan with multiple considerations for success.
“Given that the site would include both a stormwater management pond and a public park, we recommended that rather than cap the soil to reduce potential exposure, the City meet the strictest cleanup criteria. This option is the most protective of human health and the environment,” Blevins says.
The plan included removing approximately 47,000 cubic yards of arsenic-impacted soil, then placement of clean import fill for areas open to the public. Blevins and his team proposed excavating to the property boundary, and they provided technical guidance to the City contractor on how to efficiently and safely execute this undertaking. “It was important to excavate to the property boundary to assure removal of the impacted material so that the City would receive unconditional closure approval from the regulatory agency,” explains Blevins.
Concise reporting of the work is key to securing that approval, so SCS documented the excavation of impacted soil to the appropriate depths and lateral extents, managing it appropriately onsite, and transporting it to an approved landfill for disposal.
The team worked with the City’s environmental counsel to bring the site into the Florida Brownfields Program and prepared its voluntary cleanup tax credit (VCTC) applications for submission to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). All expenses and payment, confirming the expenditures “integral to rehabilitation,” are documented. With this validation, the City of Oviedo is getting back about half of its $1,432,000 related investment. It will receive another 25% bonus once FDEP issues a letter stating that no further action is required.
Documentation and communication with the state regulators is an ongoing process requiring a detailed review of contractor proposals, invoices, pay applications, proof of payment, and a summary of progress each year over the project’s life. “In particular, a line-item review of invoices can sometimes establish additional actions that are critical to remediation that otherwise might have been overlooked and not captured. This process is vital to maximize reimbursement,” Blevins explains.
Cost, as always, is a client priority. So, SCS and the remedial team focused on minimizing offsite disposal of the impacted soil, proposing over-excavating the pond, using the unimpacted soil as the onsite fill, and placing a portion of the impacted soil at the pond’s bottom.
“This was possible because testing indicated that the impacted soil would not leach arsenic into the pond water at a rate that would adversely affect water quality. We confirm that arsenic concentrations are below the strictest regulatory level before any soil from over-excavating the pond can be of beneficial reuse onsite. Safety of people and environmental protection always comes first,” Blevins says.
The ultimate outcome: Oviedo has a regional stormwater pond suited for potential commercial operations to use for drainage, maximizing available land for economic development, as well as a recreational park for the community and visitors.
SCS’s technical expertise was crucial to successfully remediating this site, attests Bobby Wyatt, Public Works Director at City of Oviedo, Florida.
“The team easily navigated and sped up the permitting process for the arsenic removal and provided continuing assistance with monitoring during construction. The process for completing the specific remediation/permitting was unfamiliar to City staff, and SCS provided efficient and competent assistance to get us where we needed to go.
Their experience provided a sense of confidence that we were going to be able to make the park project successful,” Wyatt says.
SCS has worked on brownfields projects and voluntary remediation across the U.S. for over 45 years. We convert once nonproductive commercial and industrial properties into revenue-generators and affordable housing.