Canada Research Chair in Geoenvironmental Restoration Engineering
Tier 2 - 2007-07-01
Natural Sciences and Engineering
519-661-2111, ext./poste 84154
Developing new strategies to clean up the thousands of contaminated former industrial sites throughout Canada.
This research will make cleanups of contaminated sites more efficient and cost-effective and improve public health by allowing land to be reclaimed for new uses.
Wiping the contaminated slate clean
Without industry, Canadians would not enjoy prosperity and creature comforts. But the cost of this progress has been high. There are about 30,000 chemically contaminated sites around the country, and each is a potential threat to human and environmental health.
Because of poor disposal methods or accidental leaks, the soil at these former industrial sites now contains a toxic soup of chemicals. These include gasoline and oil, industrial by products such as solvents, and even a few banned substances like PCBs. Many of these chemicals are suspected or known carcinogens, making groundwater that flows through the contaminated sites unusable and potentially dangerous. Using current techniques, it would cost tens of billions of dollars to clean up all of Canada’s contaminated sites, not including associated costs such as health care.
Dr. Jason Gerhard, Canada Research Chair in Geoenvironmental Restoration Engineering, is developing a wider array of practical strategies and cost-effective technologies to eliminate hazardous chemicals in the soil.
Gerhard is recreating the complex chemical, soil and rock environments of toxic sites in the lab and testing to see which strategies interact best during the restoration process at the sites. Results are combined with software that lets researchers simulate a variety of contaminated sites and treatments and to then tackle problems at actual sites efficiently and cost-effectively.
Gerhard’s research will reduce the health risks and financial liabilities of contaminated industrial sites. It will also allow for the reclamation of numerous abandoned industrial sites across Canada that can be put to better uses.