Solar power to clean groundwater


The US Environmental Protection Agency's Jared Blumenfeld (image), US Congressman Mike Thompson and Linda Adams, Secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency have provided details about recent exciting energy conservation and cleanup accomplishments at the Frontier Fertilizer Superfund site in Davis, California. An electrical resistance heating system partially funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act officially went online and will reduce the projected timeline to clean up groundwater on the site from 150 years to 30 years.

'For the first time ever, solar will provide all of the power for a Superfund groundwater cleanup,' said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA's Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. 'Our goal should be to clean the environment in the greenest way possible and this new treatment plant sets the benchmark for future actions.'

More than USD2.5 million dollars in stimulus funding has gone to recent improvements at the site. By installing the solar panels and starting the new system, the site will lower overall energy costs by USD15,000 a year and reduce CO2 emissions by more than 54 metric tons a year. It will also speed the cleanup by an estimated 120 years.

Electrical resistive heating is a technology sometimes used to cleanup sites when conventional methods will not work. The heating system includes 236 heating electrodes that will heat the soil and groundwater to the boiling point of water. Extraction wells strategically located in and around the heated areas will collect gas and liquids generated by the heating system. Extracted gas and liquids are treated with granular activated carbon. Twenty-seven temperature-monitoring wells will be used to monitor the belowground operation.

EPA first installed limited solar panels at the Frontier site in 2007. The initial system helped to partially offset the electrical power needs for the groundwater treatment system but could not fully power the site. In 2010, USD350,000 in Recovery Act Funds were used to expand the solar system, which now provides 100% of the power for the groundwater treatment system.

The new solar panels cover half an acre and have resulted in a ‘green' method that generates plenty of solar energy and will off-set non-renewable energy use. The expanded solar panel system was installed by a small, local business. To further green the site, the project team is also evaluating options for the reuse of treated groundwater for irrigation of City and Caltrans properties.

The Frontier Fertilizer site was first developed in the 1950's to store agricultural equipment. Operations in the 1970s and 1980s consisted of storing, mixing and delivering pesticides and herbicides. For years since, toxic chemicals including pesticides and herbicides have been leaking into soil and groundwater, the primary source of drinking water in the area.

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