In North America’s long history as a global, industrial powerhouse, manufacturing businesses have prospered and failed, come and gone, relocated, or disappeared, but
they have almost always left something behind. And it wasn’t
Solvents and chemicals used in manufacturing or even in
the clean-up processes remained, leached into the soil and
often into underground water-flows. It would be easy if these
properties could just be abandoned, but that’s not the case.
The major problem is, sometimes these chemicals flow into
There is also economic complexity; the location of the land
is too important to leave it undeveloped and un-remediated.
Therefore, the land has to be cleaned up to protect neighboring
properties or to bring it up to standards so it can be redeveloped.
Over the years, a host of new solutions have been created
to clean environmentally compromised lands, from bio-remediation to introducing chemical-eating microbes. While
the new technologies have proven to be effective, due to
situational constraints imposed by climate or soil structure, the
remedies have limitations. As a result, the last, best hope for
many owners of polluted properties is generally the simplest,
but not necessarily the cheapest, solution: carting away the
soil, or as they say in Ontario, the old “dig and dump.”
Thomas Cafferty, SIOR, CRE, president of Cafferty
Commercial Real Estate Services, in Washington, D.C.,
and Douglas Murray, SIOR, a vice president at Colliers
International in Burlington, Ontario, both have spent many
years dealing with contaminated industrial properties and
joined with Professional Report to discuss the issue of property
remediation from an American and Canadian perspective.
Back in 1987, Cafferty developed a
60,000-square-foot, build-to-suit office
building for Boeing next to a missile
manufacturing plant in the Washington,
D.C., area, about four miles from the
Pentagon. When Cafferty bought the
site, he did a Phase I review of the
property and then a second Phase I
when the building was completed; both
indicated the property was clean.
The site wasn’t. The neighboring facility
implanted circuit boards and high-tech
electronics into missiles as well as fueling the instruments of
destruction with accelerants. Multiple contaminants were used
in the process and then cleaned away with solvents laced with
TCE (trichloroethylene) and PCE (perchloroethylene).
Cafferty’s buildings was situated 20 feet down-gradient from
the rocket plant and chemical leeching followed the path of the
storm-water drain including underneath his office building. The
Environmental Protection Agency’s drinking water standard
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Chafferty's site after excavation and completion of groundwater remediation
with backfill of #57 stone layer.
By Steve Bergsman