Grounds for Change: Activating Vacant Land

ALMONO Brownfield


Tags: biofuel, bioremediation, brownfield, canola, community, experimental, grant, industrial, Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, remediation, soil, steel, testing

A former steel manufacture complex fosters experimental models in brownfield remediation and biofuel production.

Through a partnership with Carnegie Mellon University's Field Robotics Center, Bidwell Training Center, and the Regional Industrial Development Corporation of Southwest Pennsylvania, GTECH piloted its Bioenergy Garden reclamation model on this former steel manufacturing site, growing switchgrass, sunflowers, and over 500 hybrid poplars. The project demonstrated the applicability of GTECH's bioremediation model to large-scale industrial and former industrial sites, as well as commercial and residential sites.

The 178-acre ALMONO brownfield site in Hazelwood was once home to two of the largest steel manufacturers in the Southwestern Pennsylvania region: Jones and Laughlin Steel Company (J&L) from 1884 to 1974 and Ling Temco Vought (LTV) Coke Works 1974 to 1998. LTV shut its gates in 1998, leaving behind a virtual ghost town of rolling mills and sheds, blast furnaces, coke ovens, and rail transport arteries. Within a year, over 90% of the site had been demolished. Due to contamination, the area needed to be de-commissioned of asbestos, petroleum, PCB removal, and other environmental hazards. Despite these environmental challenges, the site occupies prime river front property adjacent to the community of Hazelwood.

In 2007, the GTECH team, then public policy graduate students at Carnegie Mellon University's H. John Heinz III College, initiated an independent feasibility study sponsored by the Institute for Social Innovation to pilot the idea of transitioning vacant space through proactive, productive green strategies, specifically biofuel crops.

GTECH and a host of partners planted hybrid poplar trees, switchgrass, and sunflowers to evaluate remediation capability and crop yield. In addition to helping clean contaminated soil in situ-on-site, without needing to move contaminated material elsewhere-phytoremediation served as a visible symbol of impending changes in the neighborhood. For this reason, says Reclamation Projects Manager Troy Hottle, "the sunflower projects' real benefit for us is as a transitional strategy." GTECH anticipates that the ALMONO project's visibility will encourage community planning efforts-and funding for these efforts-in nearby Hazelwood. Today, research continues into the remediation and biofuel potentials of various crops as GTECH collaboratively evaluates proactive ways to use resources prevalent at places like ALMONO.

GTECH's innovative brownfield remediation project opened the door to large-scale, industrial work opportunities throughout Pittsburgh. The crops used throughout the project have enabled successful remediation research, biofuel testing, and the launch of GTECH's sunflower seed packet business. More importantly, perhaps, the project proved that GTECH's model was designed to take on reclamation projects of multiple scales. This pilot project provided the launching pad for GTECH to secure its first grant and community site project in Pittsburgh's East Liberty neighborhood, in partnership with East Liberty Development Incorporated.


Troy Hottle, GTECH Strategies

All images courtesy of GTECH Strategies.

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