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EPA and Partners Demonstrate New Technology that Turns Dredged Material into Cement; Recycles Even Contaminated Material into a Useful Product

Release Date: 11/24/2003
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(#03138) New York, N.Y. -- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Regional Administrator Jane M. Kenny today unveiled a technology that turns dredged material into a substance that can be used to make construction-grade cement. Joining the Regional Administrator were Mayor Joseph V. Doria of Bayonne, New Jersey, Colonel John B. O'Dowd of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Rick Gimello of the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) and James T.B. Tripp, General Counsel of Environmental Defense The technology, called "Cement-Lock," was demonstrated at a four-story free-standing kiln facility in Bayonne. EPA and NJDOT each contributed $20 million to develop this and other innovative technologies to decontaminate dredged materials in the port of New York and New Jersey, and to construct the kiln, which was installed earlier this year. EPA expects Cement-Lock to be used to treat dredged sediments from a variety of sites in the New York/New Jersey harbor, with an ultimate goal of creating a self-sustaining industry that uses treated dredged sediments as building material.

"This is one of several promising technologies that have the power to solve the problem of dredged material," said EPA's Kenny. "It enables us to treat even contaminated material and use it beneficially, instead of adding tons of material to landfills that are already short on space. With three to four million cubic yards dredged from the harbor every year, it's obvious that we need new ways to deal with this material. We're very proud to support the development of this process, and look forward to cutting the ribbon with our partners on the first construction project made with treated dredged material."

"Keeping our ports clear and protecting the $50 billion industry that relies upon them is critical," said Jack Lettiere, New Jersey's Department of Transportation Commissioner. "A sound transportation infrastructure is key to New Jersey's continuing economic upturn and we must continue to look for new and environmentally safe methods to deal with dredged materials."

"This treatment technology shows great promise for managing the more contaminated sediments the Corps must dredge to maintain and improve navigation in the Port and to restore the environment and health of the Estuary," said Colonel John B. O'Dowd, New York District Engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "Given the substantial navigation and environmental restoration programs the Corps has undertaken in the New York and New Jersey Harbor, this technology could serve as a key element in moving both of these programs forward. Simply put, without technologies such as this, we will not be able to maintain, much less improve, the economic and environmental vitality of the Estuary into the future."

Mayor Joseph V. Doria, Jr. of Bayonne said, "Bayonne is proud to be associated with this important new technology. As a port community, Bayonne appreciates the need to find beneficial ways to use treated dredged materials. The people of our city and region will benefit economically and environmentally as a result of the work done by the EPA and NJDOT."

"While the long-term goal for the Hudson-Raritan Estuary and its tributaries is to eliminate on-going sources of toxic contaminants that end up in Harbor sediments, the fact is that contaminated sediments are found throughout the Lower Estuary. They interfere with the biological health of this estuarine system as well as with navigational dredging," commented James T. B. Tripp, general counsel of Environmental Defense. "One of the great success stories in the last ten years has been the development of technologies, such as GTI Cement- Lock, through demonstration projects supported by EPA, the Corps and New Jersey for treating contaminated sediments for productive uses that are environmentally sound. Such technologies offer hope, not only for a healthy Port, but for a biologically revived and restored Estuary."

The Cement Lock technology was developed by the Illinois-based Gas Technology Institute (GTI), and was designed to destroy certain contaminants in dredged material, "lock up"or immobilize metals and ultimately, produce a product similar to portland cement. Dredged material is loaded into the rotary kiln, where it is heated to between 2,400 and 2,600 degrees Fahrenheit. At this very high temperature, complex contaminants, like PCBs, are broken down into their non-hazardous components. Certain contaminants that cannot be broken down any further, like mercury, are captured in a large carbon filter. After heating, the treated dredged material takes the form of short, thin, black glassy strands called "Ecomelt." The Ecomelt is quickly cooled by quenching it with water. In EPA's and NJDOT's pilot project, the Ecomelt is then ground into a fine powder and combined with portland cement. The Ecomelt gives volume and structure to wet cement, and takes the place of new raw materials - like shale that would have to be added to the cement for this purpose. The rotary kiln has a research and development air permit from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. Because it uses natural gas as a fuel source and effectively captures any contaminants from the treatment of dredged material, its emissions are very low.

While several successful smaller scale tests have been conducted at the kiln, this is the first full-scale test of the Cement-Lock technology. Over the course of several weeks in late November and December, about 400 cubic yards of dredged material taken from upper Newark Bay will be treated at the kiln. EPA expects this project to create 150 tons of Ecomelt, which, after testing, will hopefully be used in a NJDOT construction project.

After the full-scale test is completed and evaluated, EPA and NJDOT will work with GTI to develop a commercial-scale rotary kiln that can treat up to 500,000 cubic yards of dredged material a year.