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Bowers Landfill Case Study

Note: EPA no longer updates this information, but it may be useful as a reference or resource.

Photo of Bowers site.
Source: Ohio EPA
Before: Drums and refuse at the Bowers site.
wetland

After: Wetland on site.

PROBLEM
  • Soil, groundwater, and surface water contaminated with volatile organic compounds and PCBs
  • Hazardous and non-hazardous surface debris
SOLUTION
  • Surface debris removed to a licensed facility
  • Sediments removed and dewatered
  • Clay cap constructed
  • Groundwater monitoring system installed
PARTNERS
  • U.S. EPA
  • Ohio EPA
  • Ohio Division of Wildlife
  • Local community
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
POSITIVE ECONOMIC IMPACTS
  • 100+ jobs per year supported during two years of cleanup
  • $2.6 million in annual income associated with cleanup jobs
  • Roughly $628,000 potential increase in total residential property values within two miles of the site
ENVIRONMENTAL & SOCIAL BENEFITS
  • Elimination of health threats from exposure to contaminated soil, and ground and surface water
  • Creation of seven-acre wetlands adjacent to the Scioto River, a major migration corridor for waterfowl and shorebirdsr
  • Preservation of habitat for several species of fish, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals, including the endangered Indiana bat
  • Improvement of the aesthetic quality of local landscape
  • Renewal of civic pride in achieving the successful cleanup of a hazardous waste landfill
Last Updated January 1999

Bowers Landfill
Pickaway County, Ohio

BEFORE
Hazardous waste landfill filled with municipal, chemical, and industrial waste

AFTER
Wetlands home for plants, wildlife, and migratory birds

IMPACT
Productive use of land as an ecological sanctuary

During a routine inspection of the Bowers Landfill in 1971, local health officials were alarmed to discover an unusually high concentration of chemicals in an area next to the Scioto River, a major waterway in central Ohio. Because the river is known to flood regularly, the officials knew that a creative solution would be needed to clean up the contamination. After further investigations of the site revealed that large quantities of chemical and industrial wastes had been dumped at the landfill, EPA and the State worked together to develop that creative solution. What resulted was the creation of seven acres of wetlands in an area between the river and the landfill. The wetlands not only provide a protective buffer between the landfill and the river, but they also provide a safe habitat for numerous species of plants, birds, and other wildlife. What follows is the story of how EPA worked with others to develop this creative solution for the site, and how it was returned to productive use with economic impacts and environmental and social benefits.

Site Snapshot

Bowers Landfill started in 1958 as a rock quarry, but soon was being used as a municipal dump. From 1963 to 1968, landfill operators also accepted chemical and industrial waste. As was common practice in those days, the waste was dumped directly on the ground and covered with soil. When the site was abandoned in 1968, the debris and soil contaminated with chemicals were left behind. Rain and floodwaters carried this contamination into the groundwater under the site and the nearby Scioto River.

From Waste...

Because of the unsafe conditions at Bowers Landfill, EPA placed the site on its list of hazardous waste sites needing cleanup. In 1991, EPA awarded funds to the Ohio EPA to carry out a cleanup plan that would contain the contamination and prevent it from migrating to the Scioto River. The Ohio EPA hauled away the debris and used clean clay from elsewhere on the site to build a cap over the landfill. In addition, they took measures to manage drainage and erosion concerns, and installed a system to prevent the build-up of explosive gas under the cap. Finally, Ohio EPA installed a fence and other security measures to prevent people from entering the site. With the site cleaned up, EPA deleted the site from its list of hazardous waste sites in 1997.

...To Wetlands

In addition to cleaning up the site, EPA and the Ohio EPA decided they had to do something to protect the newly-capped landfill from the floodwaters that frequently inundate the land along the Scioto River. The site’s location near the river made it ideal for creating wetlands. This innovative and cost-effective use of the land would not only control flooding, but provide a benefit to the surrounding ecosystem. EPA used recommendations from the Ohio Division of Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to design and create these new wetlands. Using the seven-acre pit the Ohio EPA created when it dug up the clay for the landfill cap, EPA graded it for waterways and retention ponds, and seeded the area to promote plant growth. The wetlands flourished and now provide a safe habitat for a variety of species.

Community Benefits

Wetlands provide a wealth of benefits to their surrounding areas. For example, they filter sediment, nutrients, toxins, microorganisms, and heavy metals from water, and help to purify drinking water by filtering polluted runoff from roads and farms. Wetlands also create a nurturing environment for plants and wildlife; in fact, wetlands provide spawning grounds for 75 to 90 percent of our nation’s commercial fish and shellfish harvests. The wetlands created at the Bowers Landfill site will benefit the surrounding communities in many other ways as well. For example, whenever the Scioto River floods, they will absorb the flood waters and release them slowly, thereby reducing possible damage to the protective cover over the landfill. Surrounding communities will also benefit from new recreational opportunities at the site, such as hunting, fishing, canoeing, and wildlife photography. Local property owners also have seen their property values increase. The now picturesque landscape at the former landfill is a source of pride for the community, and the seven-acre wetlands is contributing to the 400,000 acres of land that Ohio hopes to restore to wetlands by 2010.

Keys to Success

The partnership among U.S. EPA, Ohio EPA, Ohio Division of Wildlife, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was instrumental in cleaning up and creating the wetlands on Bowers Landfill. In addition, the nearby residents and representatives from the City of Circleville and Pickaway County formed the Bowers Landfill Information Committee, which helped keep the community involved and informed. Committee members provided site managers with suggestions and community reaction and feedback throughout the cleanup and redevelopment process, and acted as a channel for community concerns.

For more information about the cleanup and redevelopment of the Bowers site, contact:

Dave Wilson, Remedial Project Manager
U.S. EPA-Region 5
77 West Jackson Blvd.
Forbes Field, Building 740
Chicago, IL 60604
(312) 886-1476