Land | Land use | Sustainability | Ecotrope

Greening Up A Portland Brownfield Site

Ecotrope | Sept. 20, 2012 10:25 a.m. | Updated: Feb. 19, 2013 1:29 p.m.

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Contaminated soil at the Zidell property on Portland's south waterfront has been cleared or contained to pave the way for redevelopment. Now planners are looking at how to make the development as green as possible.

Contaminated soil at the Zidell property on Portland's south waterfront has been cleared or contained to pave the way for redevelopment. Now planners are looking at how to make the development as green as possible.

Planners say the redevelopment of the 33-acre Zidell property on Portland’s south waterfront offers an opportunity to test some green ideas on a large scale.

The city of Portland and the Environmental Protection Agency are working with Zidell to look at the potential for renewable energy and rainwater recycling systems that would serve multiple buildings, as well as eco-roofs, green streets and rain gardens.

The soil on much of Zidell’s south waterfront property was contaminated by industrial pollution. Historic ship-building and ship-breaking operations left behind metals, gasoline and diesel pollutants, motor oil, industrial lubricants and asbestos. It’s what environmental agencies call a brownfield site.

Zidell has removed or contained contaminated soil to keep it from seeping into groundwater and the Willamette River. And now that the site is ready to be redeveloped, planners say it is ripe for all kinds of green infrastructure because the developers will be building new roads, power lines and water systems along with new buildings.

Geraldine Moyle, project manager for the Portland Development Commission, said planners are looking at the potential for building renewable energy and graywater recycling systems that would serve the whole neighborhood, as well as using plants to store storm water and reduce runoff into the Willamette. The south waterfront happens to be a pilot ecodistrict, where the city is planning to improve overall sustainability.

“In this area in particular, it doesn’t have a lot of infrastructure yet,” said Moyle. “There aren’t a lot of streets there. It’s an opportunity to look at (eco)district infrastructure. … We’re looking at how you might use non-potable water in a more green way so it’s not going in the sewer or in the river. So, it’s being recycled. For storm water, we’re looking at how do you store it so that we minimize the amount that has to go to an outfall and into the river.”

The Environmental Protection Agency sees green potential in the site, as well. Krista Mendelman, an environmental scientist for the EPA, said her agency has offered to share its own experts in green infrastructure planning with the city of Portland to maximize the benefits of green roofs, rain gardens, and bioswales to soak up storm water.

“There’s a huge potential at the site to use green infrastructure because it’s so large,” Mendelman said. “There’s nothing there now, but as they plan it they can plan where the buildings will go where the roads will go and incorporate the green infrastructure into that. It’s really a great opportunity.”

Mendelman says the EPA is hoping the city of Portland can apply what it learns learn about green infrastructure at the Zidell site to the redevelopment of the Portland Harbor Superfund site.

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