How to make a brownfield green: OARDC team turns waste into soil

What to do with an “87-acre wasteland of glassy slag”? The fix came — richly — from the sewers.

What to do with an “87-acre wasteland of glassy slag”? The fix came — richly — from the sewers.

In Chicago, Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center scientist Nick Basta and his colleagues are helping restore “an 87-acre wasteland of glassy slag” using topsoil made from biosolids. Basta is a professor in the School of Environment and Natural Resources.

Biosolids are treated sewage sludge. Once treated, they’re safe to use, free of pathogens and full of nutrients that help plants grow. In this case, the sewage came from Chicago’s sanitary sewer system.

In test plots at the site, a biosolids-based soil blend made by Basta and team worked better than a wood-chip-based compost at supporting plants and beneficial soil organisms.

The slag is waste from steel mills that used to be on the site.

“You have to bring in the soil [to restore the site],” Basta said in a Dec. 16 story in TerraDaily. “Why not connect the dots and bring in what’s available locally?”

New place for plants — and for migrant birds, too?

  • The steel mill site, located on Chicago’s southeast side, is called the Lake Calumet Cluster site.
  • In 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency added the site to the Superfund National Priorities List.
  • Superfund is the federal program that investigates and cleans up the worst hazardous waste sites in the U.S.
  • The restored Lake Calumet site will hopefully become a rest stop for birds migrating along the nearby shoreline of Lake Michigan, the TerraDaily story said.

Read about more new research by Nick Basta here.

Read the TerraDaily story here.

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