Superfund To Solar? EPA Thinks Maybe So

Price’s Pit Landfill, outside Atlantic City, N.J., has an ugly history. In the 1970s, septic tank and sewage waste, greases, oils and industrial chemicals were dumped there, sometimes directly, sometimes in 55-gallon drums that were destined to leak. In all, some 9 million gallons of chemical wastes found a home at the old sand and gravel quarry, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

So is this any place to build a solar power plant? The EPA thinks it might be. The agency is already working on cleaning up the groundwater at the Superfund site and putting a cap over it. “Because the site will be relatively level with sparse vegetation once the cap is installed, it may be suitable for renewable energy,” the agency said. And there are other pluses to Price’s Pit Landfill, according to the EPA: “The local utility company maintains power lines at the site and a substation adjacent to it, which also would be an advantage for solar development. The site also is located six miles from Atlantic City and within the Atlantic County Industrial Zone. The presence of a renewable energy facility will greatly enhance the development potential of the surrounding area.”

Price's Pit Landfill, solar, EPA

image via Shutterstock

The assessment of Price’s potential for a solar-power installation is part of the EPA’s “RE-Powering America’s Land” initiative. The agency is spending $1 million to evaluate 26 sites around the country, working with clean-power experts from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

“America faces serious environmental and economic challenges caused by our over reliance on fossil fuels,” Judith A. Enck, EPA regional administrator, said in a statement. “Part of the solution is to use previously contaminated land to generate clean energy. This strategy will revitalize communities, cut air pollution and create new jobs.”

Sites in the RE-Powering project were selected based on applications submitted by states, tribes, regional governments and communities earlier this year. The full list of sites that will be studied and links to one-page PDFs describing each site are available through the EPA.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.