Written by: Kelly Beavers, Environmental Geologist
As Great Outdoors Month comes to an end, I want to reflect on the importance of nature and more specifically, how being outdoors impacts all our lives. As an Environmental Geologist, a sizable portion of my job is spent outdoors. Research has proven, and many of us can attest, that there are countless perks to spending time outdoors. Soaking up the sun (and even the rain!) can lead to improved overall health, increased relaxation, improved focus and the body’s release of natural endorphins. Time spent outdoors has even been linked to better academic performance! With benefits like this right outside your front door, who wouldn’t want to spend time in the great outdoors? But someone needs to be responsible for making sure those outdoor spaces are safe, and that’s where I come in.
From remediation to site assessment, one of the best parts of working with the environmental services team is creating safe spaces for people outdoors. A favorite project of mine is the Canal Basin Park in Cleveland near Settler’s Landing, along the Cuyahoga River. This project comes to mind because of the significant change we saw in the space, and in turn, what a positive impact it had for the community. We assisted Cleveland Metroparks in transforming a vacant parking lot that formerly housed industrial buildings into a beautiful green park and gathering place for the community. My involvement was heavily focused on the environmental safety of the site:
PHASE I ENVIRONMENTAL SITE ASSESSMENT –
This process is like a background check on the property. I analyzed historical resources, including aerial photographs, Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps and city directories, gathered file information from governmental entities, conducted interviews and performed a site walk over. This is a critical phase in analyzing the historical use of a site and determining if it is safe for public use.
PHASE II SOIL INVESTIGATION –
This process involved collecting representative samples of soils and/or groundwater to be analyzed for signs of environmental contaminants. Soil investigation requires physical observation of the soils at the site. This included drilling soil borings and collecting soil samples across the site to determine the physical and chemical properties of the soil, and if there were any areas of contamination.
The environmental assessments were central to determining if there was any contamination at the site as a bi-product of the site’s historic industrial uses. At any site with the potential for contamination, we must take steps to evaluate the health of the site to the public and how we can address it to make the site a safe place for people to enjoy.
We assisted Cleveland Metroparks in transforming an unhealthy eyesore to the local commercial neighborhood, into a beautiful greenspace for people to relax and enjoy some of the many benefits that come with spending time in the great outdoors. Throughout the whole project experience, I got to enjoy time outdoors, venture to local communities and discover new parks. If there is anything I have learned during my short time on this earth, it is to enjoy nature and to never stop exploring. We are passionate about the outdoors, and hope you can safely enjoy it as much as we do!