The cleanup technology proposed for making the heavily polluted Ocean State Steel property safe for development has never been used in Rhode Island, but the project developer, the New York-based GeoNova Group, says it might be the breakthrough that will make the development of polluted industrial properties more economically feasible.
The technology, called the Molecular Bonding System process, works like this: soils contaminated with a variety of metals are scooped up and run through a portable mixing machine. They are mixed with a powder of various chemicals that bind with the metals, chemically altering them from hazards that can leach out of the soil to metallic sulfide compounds that are nontoxic and won't leach.
With this process, the soils can be left on the site and developers don't have to go to the expense of trucking them to landfills. For extra security, plans call for capping the treated soils with "clean materials" at the East Providence work site.
The process, developed by a company called Solucorp Industries Ltd. of West Nyack, N.Y., requires a different Molecular Bonding System batch to be mixed at each brownfields site to address specific on-site pollutants.
At the Ocean State Steel site, the pollutants include lead, arsenic, chromium and cadmium.
Joseph Martella, the engineer at the state Department of Environmental Management who is reviewing the cleanup plans, said the DEM has approved the plans conceptually, though he hasn’t had time to review the process itself.
The important thing to remember, he said, is that the cleanup will be judged by performance, not necessarily by the technology that's used.
After GeoNova processes the soils, the soils will be retested to determine whether the harmful metals have been sufficiently altered to a non-leachable condition.