Community response to a sustainable restoration plan for a superfund site
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Large-scale copper (Cu) mining activities in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula produced millions of metric tons of mining wastes also known as stamp sands. The stamp sands containing high concentrations of Cu were disposed of into several lakes connected to the Lake Superior. Eventually, as aquatic organisms in these lakes started to exhibit toxicity symptoms, the stamp sands were dredged and discarded on the lake shores. Consequently, these areas turned into degraded, marginal lands and were collectively classified as a Torch Lake Superfund site by the US EPA. Due to the lack of vegetative cover, the Cu-rich stamp sands eroded into the lakes, affecting the aquatic life. To alleviate this issue, a sustainable restoration plan (SRP) was developed and tested in a greenhouse environment prior to field implementation. Cold-tolerant oilseed crops, camelina (Camelina sativa) and field pennycress (Thlaspi arvense), were grown on compost-fertilized stamp sands, which reduced soil erosion by acting as a vegetative cap. Oilseed plants produced normal yield, demonstrating their potential utilization as biofuel feedstock. Prior to implementing the SRP in field-scale in the Torch Lake Superfund site, a public opinion survey of the local community was conducted to understand the views of residents. Door-to-door survey was performed in July–August 2015, which yielded a response rate of 68.1%. Results showed that residents were generally concerned with stamp sand erosion into the Torch Lake and were overwhelmingly supportive of the SRP, which would not only provide environmental benefits but could boost the local economy via biofuel production. To gauge the general environmental awareness of the respondents, the survey included questions on climate change. Most of the respondents acknowledged that climate change is real and anthropogenically mediated. Having college education and a relatively high annual household income showed a positive and significant correlation with climate change awareness.
KeywordsStamp sand Torch Lake Camelina Field pennycress Biofuel Sustainable restoration plan
The authors would like to thank Dr. Yong Wang from the Montclair State University for his help in designing the survey questionnaire and approval for the study. VS acknowledges the doctoral assistantship he received from Montclair State University.
This research was part of VS’s dissertation, and it was not funded by any research grant from funding agencies in the public, private, or not-for-profit sectors.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Research involving human participants
A letter of agreement seeking permission for the door-to-door survey from the Torch Lake Township was obtained (SI-2). The survey was approved by the IRB (Institutional Review Board) office of Montclair State University (IRB Protocol no. 001526) (SI-3). All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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