When the Tables Turn: Industry’s Ability to Fix Pollution
Everyone is aware of the dangers of pollution; the U.S. is an industrial nation and contamination is one of the all-too-common problems plaguing its environments. And Americans aren’t the only ones who deal with these ecological issues: a little place called Randle Reef has become famous — or rather, infamous — for the simple fact that it is the most contaminated site on the Canadian side of the Great Lakes.
Pollution in the harbor originated from the presence of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (a.k.a. PAHs) and other heavy metals in the sediment, and has progressed to the point that the water quality is dangerously low. So low, in fact, that a remediation project was created; they’ve almost completed Phase I of the plan, constructing a 6.2 hectare engineered containment facility that is placed directly on top of the most contaminated area. This facility will begin dredging the poisoned sediment, and filtering and treating the water so it can be pumped back into the harbor, during Phase II. The whole area will then be sealed off with a multilayered environmental cap to keep it contained.
The irony of this story lies in the origin of the PAHs; the various industrial sources — from petroleum refinement to coal gasification — includes the production of steel. As of today, steel is one of the most “green” materials in the world, reusing up to 90% recycled content during production. Sheet piling companies use steel sheet piles to support Earth’s many bridges and seawalls. In fact, steel sheet piling was vital to the construction of Randle Reef’s engineered containment facility, utilizing around 3,400 steel sheets to support the massive walls needed to keep the 62,000 square meter space (almost seven full football fields) separate from Lake Ontario. An article posted on The Hamilton Spectator stated the use of 33 meter sheet piles provided by steel suppliers, with the total weight of the piles alone coming in at around 9,000 tons — that’s a lot of recycled materials!
Sheet piling companies provide just one source of green steel use. Steel is the most common material used in creating renewable energy, from building wind and tidal turbines to solar panels and geothermal power plants. There may be many places like Randle Reef around the world, but Canada’s dedication to reversing the damage and using green products shows that change is possible.