North-Central Section - 50th Annual Meeting - 2016

Paper No. 29-15
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM


PONDER, Katrina L., Geology, Augustana College, 639 38th Street, Rock Island, IL 61201,

As cities repurpose their land, it is common to turn former industrial sites into public space, although the extent of environmental hazards may remain unknown. Sylvan Island, located in the Mississippi River in Moline, Illinois, is the site of an abandoned steel mill which has since been transformed into a public park, with trails for hiking and mountain biking. Although access to the park is limited, due to closure of the original bridge, a new bridge is scheduled for construction in the near future, and the city anticipates increased use by the public. Many industrial relicts remain on the island, including steel rails and building foundations. This study analyzes soil samples obtained from several different locations on the island in order to assess possible health risks to humans, particularly from heavy metals associated with the industrial activities. A similar study in Almalyk, Usbekistan, revealed widespread contamination of soils, particularly of Cu, Zn, and Pb, with soil contaminant concentrations decreasing farther away from the suspected source (Kodirov and Shukurov, 2009). Fifteen soil samples were taken around three sampling sites in close proximity to the abandoned railway, the mill’s entrance, and the current park entrance. Analyses are under way, but it is hypothesized that soils closer to the plant entrance will show significant heavy metal contamination, possibly exceeding safe limits established by the EPA. The accumulation of heavy metals in surface soils leads to the contamination of surface water, which may then get into groundwater as well (Chen et al., 1997). Plants that are grown in polluted soil may then be eaten by animals. As Sylvan Island is a 38-acre island covered almost entirely by vegetation, highly polluted soils could have an impact detrimental to the ecological health of the island.