Pristine isn't the dream, says geologist Matt Grove '94

Early in the 1900s, two manufacturing plants in Arlington, Mass., dumped their chemical waste out back, which polluted a town-owned pond, later filled to create the high school football field.

The town became aware of the contamination in the 1990s but didn’t get money to clean up the site until the 2000s.

That’s when environmental consultant Matt Grove ’94 and his team from the firm Brown and Caldwell went to work.

First, the contamination was excavated and consolidated. “We installed a cap of plastic and soil layers,” explains Grove. “And we treated the groundwater with a chemical designed to stimulate bioactivity.” As microbes grow and prosper, they create soil conditions that immobilize the contamination. New playing fields were installed over the capped portions of the property. (See aerial images during the project and after completion.)

The Arlington project illustrates the changing approach to environmental cleanups. “The idea is that it’s not feasible to clean up a site to pristine conditions,” Grove explains. “Instead, you reduce contamination to a point where the site can be deemed safe for certain uses.”

Grove, a biology and geology major at Bates who earned a Ph.D. in geology at Duke, believes that “there’s a broader acceptance of changing the way things are done to get people to be more environmentally conscious. It takes a bit of force sometimes, but I think we’re moving toward a better place in terms of the environment and the care we’re taking of it.”

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