As part of the Switchyard Park development project, the Bloomington officials are exploring ways to deal with contaminants in the soil from the old CSX rail line that once occupied the site.
Train tracks once lined the site that’s been designated for the future Switchyard Park south of downtown Bloomington. The tracks and trains have been gone for decades, but they left behind traces of lead, arsenic and other pollutants.
Bloomington officials are now trying to find a way to remove those contaminants—the first step to building the public park.
The city hired environmental consultant Bruce Carter Associates, to handle the project, the same company that helped clean up the B-Line trail, which had similar contaminants.
“We found a very successful formula with the B-Line, and expect that the formula will be applied to this project as well,” says Director of Project Development at Bruce Carter Associates Joel Markland. He says the remediation efforts will focus on preventing contact between the park-goers and the contaminants in the soil.
“Really the contamination is a direct contact concern. It’s not a threat to groundwater,” Markland says. “So keeping the public from direct contact with the coal ash and cinder is what would need to happen.”
The current recommendation is to place a barrier over the soil to contain the pollutants. Soil may also be hauled away from the site—a process that could be paired with construction efforts to reduce costs.
Indiana University assistant professor of biology Heather Reynolds says the City of Bloomington also asked IU to look into phytoremediation – the use of plants to help reduce contaminant levels.
“It would be a nice educational piece for people to see, but in terms of a practical method of mitigating the huge amounts of contaminants on this site, it’s probably not going to work at this particular location,” Reynolds says.
City officials say the start date for the remediation project is still unknown and will depend on funding availability.