Eleven New Haven residents on Wednesday night learned about new technology set to be used in Connecticut for “capping brownfields” — covering unused land that was once developed and now contains toxic material.
Representatives from Tipping Point Resources Group, LLC, a local environmental firm, gathered with locals on Wednesday evening at the Wilson Branch Library for an information session discussing the firm’s new capping technology. The event was hosted by Al Kovalik, the president of the firm, and Eric Stern, one of its founding partners. Kovalik and Stern presented information about the firm’s new project before taking questions from the attendees.
In the presentation, Kovalik said the firm has implemented a method of strengthening dredged material — sediments removed from the bottom of water bodies to facilitate waterway transportation. The company then mixes dredged material and cement to cap brownfields, he said.
“What we’re using is a really efficient method to mix in cement to dredged material,” he said. “That’s the treatment that stabilizes whatever is in there and allows us to place it in an upland setting, so there’s a bunch of different benefits there.”
The firm’s new technology tackles two main environmental problems, Kovalik said. It absorbs material from other locations and processes it for sustainable use. In the past, he said, dredged material was often dumped into open ocean waters, which is harmful to marine ecosystems. Capping brownfields helps spur economic development in the local area by preparing land for reuse, Kovalik added.
The mixing technology will be located on a stationary barge at the New Haven Terminal so that the dredged material can be shipped directly to the processing site. The resulting mixture will then be delivered to the brownfield redevelopment site, he continued.
Stern said that although surrounding states such as New York and New Jersey already have implemented similar technology, the initiative represents new ground for Connecticut.
“[Connecticut] is just starting to get into the space of using dredged material for capping brownfields,” he said. “Other states are way ahead of us. We’ve had the privilege of disposing the material into open waters, but that’s changing now.”
The firm is still in the process of securing a permit from the state for its new development, he said, but he hopes the firm will be able to will begin processing dredged material in January.
Despite the projected benefits of the technology, some residents who attended the event expressed concern about its possible environmental risks. One attendee asked whether the concrete–dredged-material mixture would leach out contaminants during the process of treatment and transportation.
Kovalik responded that the system is entirely self-contained within “14-inch, heavy duty steel pipes,” and has virtually no risk of contamination. In addition, although the dredged material contains contaminants, the cement adds enough structure to the mixture to prevent leaching, he explained.
However, Monica Maldonado, an environmental science and toxicology student at Gateway Community College who attended the event, remained unconvinced. She said that although she appreciates the firm’s efforts to solve serious, large-scale environmental problems, she is still not fully assured about the risk the technology might present.
“I have a problem with the fact that it’s coming to New Haven,” she said. “It brings all these toxic and contaminated items to urban areas, and it would be located right next to an oil refinery and a sewage treatment plant. I’m just concerned that they’re adding too many contaminants to the area.”
There are more than 400 brownfield sites in Connecticut.
Amber Hu | firstname.lastname@example.org