Topic: "Environmental Dredging of the Buffalo River"
Presenters will be: William Fredrick USACE, Martin Doster of the NYSDEC, and Jill Spisiak Jedlicka of Buffalo Niagara Riverkeepers.
The Buffalo River Area of Concern (AOC) is located in the city of Buffalo, NY and provided access to a major industrial corridor for over 150 years. The river flows from the east and discharges into Lake Erie near the head of the Niagara River. A portion of the Buffalo River is designated as the federal navigation channel and is maintained by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) at a depth of 22 feet below low water datum (LWD). The AOC includes the entire 1.4-mile stretch of the City Ship Canal (Ship Canal) and extends upstream approximately 6.2 miles, or just below the confluence of Cazenovia and Buffalo Creeks.
Since the early 1800s, municipal and industrial waste has been disposed of in the Buffalo River, including pollution from grain milling and manufacturing industries along the shoreline. The pollution problems were compounded with the widening and deepening of the river for navigation, which increased hydraulic residence time and sedimentation. Presently, the sources of contamination in the AOC are primarily from the sediments and non-point sources in the Buffalo River Watershed. The Buffalo River sediments consequently are impacted with wide array of organic and inorganic contaminants; the majority of contaminants are collocated with four main constituents: polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), mercury, and lead.
The Buffalo River AOC exhibits nine beneficial use impairments (BUIs) that cause detrimental changes in the chemical, physical, or biological integrity of the Great Lakes system. The BUIs provided a tool for describing the effects of the contamination and a means for focusing remedial actions. The impairments primarily have been caused by historical discharges to the river from industrial facilities.
The primary objective of the Buffalo River AOC remediation is the removal of contaminated sediments and subsequent environmental restoration to support lifting the BUI designations. This is driven by five remedial action objectives (RAOs) that were developed by the project team, which will be presented.
A Feasibility Study (FS) presented six alternatives that were narrowed to a preferred remedy of Enhanced Protectiveness Dredging. This alternative targets the mechanical removal of sediment from areas that exceed the site-specific sediment chemistry guidelines, including elevated chemical concentrations at depths between 0 and 4 feet. The preferred remedy will also reduce risks to human health and the environment in areas frequently accessed by the public, in sediment areas that may scour during high-flow events, and in areas where sediment has been historically disturbed by ship traffic.
Approximately 406,100 yd3 of non-Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) contaminated sediment from the Buffalo River and approximately 70,600 yd3 of non-TSCA sediment from the Ship Canal will be mechanically dredged and disposed of at the existing USACE CDF No. 4, which was specifically designed for the management and disposal of the Buffalo River sediments. An additional 5,400 yd3 of TSCA sediments are estimated to be removed from the Buffalo River, along with 25,000 yd3 of non-TSCA sediments based on the results of confirmation sampling.
In addition, the USACE began removing up to 625,000 yd3 of impacted sediment from the Federal navigation channel in 2011 in advance of the legacy sediment remediation and habitat restoration activities.
Environmental restoration will occur in select areas of the river after the sediment dredging and capping activities are concluded. These efforts are intended to restore habitat and augment the existing environment. Remedial success will be monitored through a post-action sampling effort (sediment and biologic factors) and habitat viability inspections. This project is funded through the EPA’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) and Great Lakes Legacy Act (GLLA), in partnership with the Honeywell Corporation. GLRI dredging occurred in 2011 and GLLA actions are scheduled for 2012 and 2013.