Land | Ecotrope

Lesson one at Carson-Gore Academy: How to clean up toxic soil

Ecotrope | Sept. 7, 2010 5:22 a.m. | Updated: Feb. 19, 2013 1:47 p.m.

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Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has a 455-page database of leaking underground storage tank clean-up sites around the state. Is it OK to put a school on top of formerly contaminated land?

Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has a 455-page database of leaking underground storage tank clean-up sites around the state. Is it OK to put a school on top of formerly contaminated land?

A California school devoted to environmental science chose Al Gore to be one of its namesakes, The Los Angeles Times reports today.

Alas, the $75.5-million Carson-Gore Academy of Environmental Sciences is set atop contaminated soil (as well as an oil field). That’s awkward. But it would make for an engaging lesson plan.

This weekend, workers were still removing polluted soil left at the site by more than a dozen industrial storage tanks, and the school is set to open next week. (FYI, the Northwest has lots of these kinds of sites in various stages of clean-up, but not necessarily on school grounds.)

One environmental coalition said it’s inappropriate to name a school on toxic ground after environmental luminaries. The group says building a safe, clean school would be a better way to honor the work of former vice president Al Gore and Rachel Carson, the author who helped launch the environmental movement.

School district officials say that the property is clean and safe, and they plan to check vapor monitors and groundwater wells to make sure it stays that way. In fact, the Northwest has numerous sites like this one, where contaminated soil around underground storage tanks needs to be dug up and replaced. Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has a whole database of such sites around the state (Leaking Underground Storage Tank clean-up site database, a.k.a LUST).

It can take awhile to fully clean up the pollutants left behind by something as seemingly benign as a an old, leaking gas station storage tank. I’m not sure we’ve faced the question of whether it’s OK to build a school on top of the clean-up sites.

This new school is outside the Northwest, but I’d be interested in your thoughts on whether you think it’s OK to put a school on a formerly contaminated site – and whether naming the L.A. school after Carson and Gore was an honor or an insult.

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