Solvay Waste Beds

In Central New York, hydrogeologic systems associated with limestone and halite have resulted in locally abundant but otherwise rare plant communities: marl fens and inland salt marshes. These geologic features also attracted to upstate New York industrialists who used limestone and halite brine in the production of soda ash—a process that produces vast amounts of Solvay waste, an infertile, alkaline material comprised of calcium, magnesium and sodium salts. During the century of soda ash production in Central New York, approximately 600 hectares of Solvay waste landfills (i.e., waste beds) were created and deposited near Onondaga Lake. The waste beds are uncapped, sparsely vegetated and a significant local environmental concern due to leachate impacts on surface and groundwater.


Project Title: Restoration of a Solvay waste site using threatened and endangered plant species and natural communities

Summary:
Current work by SUNY ESF (in partnership with O’Brien & Gere) has focused on the following goals:

  1. Identifying sustainable ways to reduce leachate generated from the waste beds, and
  2. Capitalizing on the unique environmental conditions of Solvay waste to restore marl fen, inland salt marsh and other threatened and endangered plant species and natural communities.

A two hectare pilot study initiated in 2008 shows that the target plant communities establish and develop readily on a previously-barren Solvay waste site. Currently over 170 native plant species exist on site, eight of which are threatened or endangered in New York. Upcoming work will measure evapotranspiration from the site in order to evaluate the extent to which these plant communities reduce leachate generation.

Location: Camillus, NY

Timeline: 2008 – Present

Field participant:
Molly Farrell, Graduate Research Assistant
Department of Environmental and Forest Biology, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry

Principal Investigators:
Anthony S. Eallonardo Jr.
Scientist, O’Brien & Gere
Adjunct Professor, Department of Environmental and Forest Biology, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry

Donald J. Leopold
Distinguished Teaching Professor and Chair, Department of Environmental and Forest Biology, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry

Funding:
Honeywell
EPA STAR Fellowship Program
Edna Bailey Sussman Foundation

Contact:
Dr. Anthony S. Eallonardo Jr.
Scientist, O’Brien & Gere
333 West Washington Street, Syracuse, NY 13221
Phone: 315-956-6602, Fax: 315-463-7554, email: tony.eallonardo@obg.com

Dr. Donald J. Leopold
Distinguished Teaching Professor and Chair
Department of Environmental and Forest Biology
1 Forestry Drive, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry
Syracuse, New York 13210 USA
Phone: 315-470-6760, FAX: 315-470-6934, email: djleopold@esf.edu