Innovative Remediation Projects Breathe New Life into Communities

    From an impactful river cleanup to former industrial sites being transformed to generate solar power – remediation brings value to communities and the people who live there. Learn about some recently transformed spaces and how technology enables continued creativity for redesigns.

    Today, New York’s Buffalo River is a vibrant ecosystem for people to kayak, gather with friends and family and enjoy the outdoors.

    This wasn’t always the case. Just a decade ago, the river was deemed “functionally dead” due to contamination and neglect after more than a century of manufacturing operations on its shores. 

    One of the industrial sites on the shores of the Buffalo River was the Buffalo Color plant, which was formerly owned and operated by Allied Chemical (Honeywell’s predecessor). The facility produced dyes and organic chemicals since 1879. Allied Chemical sold the operation in 1977 and Buffalo Color Corp. took over before going bankrupt in 2006.

    Honeywell, as a former operator, partnered with a Buffalo businessperson and a brownfield redeveloper to clean up the site and helped form a unique partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)/Great Lakes National Program Office, the US Army Corps of Engineers, Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, to clean up the Buffalo River.

    The Buffalo River

    Over the course of just eight years, the Buffalo River Restoration Partnership removed contaminated sediment, installed aquatic and plant habitats, contributed to a decrease in contaminants in the food web, and sparked the transformation of a desolate waterfront into a popular destination.

    Before being cleaned up, the Buffalo River contained enough toxic pollutants to fill a football field 40 stories high, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Now, the river has become an environmental, economic and community resource that includes nine acres of habitat restoration with over 143,000 native plantings.

    The river’s transformation is one example of how remediation projects can enhance communities and provide valuable resources that may not have existed otherwise.

    At the Buffalo Color site, Honeywell and the local brownfield developer removed toxic chemicals from the former facility so it could be repurposed into the riverfront venue that is it today. Known as Buffalo Color Park, the site is a lively space for citizens and includes an event venue, sports facilities and apartments. 

    The former Buffalo Color plant (left) before being revitalized (right)

    The Buffalo Color Park and the Buffalo River remediation projects are examples of Honeywell’s commitment to remediation. We have remediated and restored more than 3,000 acres to create productive community spaces, including roughly 2,800 acres of biodiverse habitats. 

    Honeywell has legacy manufacturing operations dating back to the 19th century – such was the case with the Buffalo Color plant – and many of our former operations were closed or sold years ago and are now considered brownfields, which cannot be revitalized or repurposed until toxic chemicals are removed from the site.   

    Additionally, many of the sites had multiple owners over the years, and most no longer exist. These historic operations mostly predate the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, Superfund regulations, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and/or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and are not a reflection of Honeywell’s current operations and processes.  

    The former Buffalo Color plant (left) before being revitalized (right)

    How Emerging Technology Is Shaping Remediation

    It takes a visionary group of people to see the potential in vacant industrial sites and turn them into purposeful spaces that add value to the community. Enter Honeywell’s remediation and redevelopment group, a team that collaborates with public and private entities to execute meaningful projects at industrial sites around the world. 

    Jessica Telano, a remediation, design and construction senior manager and sustainability practice lead at Honeywell, manages a portfolio of remediation sites throughout the US and Europe, ranging from former industrial manufacturing facilities owned by Honeywell or its predecessors, or sites that are in use today, such as groundwater treatment plants that will be operating for the foreseeable future.

    As the sustainability practice lead, Telano implements renewable energy projects across a portfolio of sites. Adding renewable energy capabilities to remediation sites is an example of what the EPA defines as green remediation: incorporating options to maximize the environmental benefits of cleanup actions. 

    Honeywell’s remediation and redevelopment group has completed several green remediation projects that include solar arrays (collections of solar panels) to minimize the impact to the electrical grid, minimize greenhouse gas emissions and support long-term treatment systems.

    For example, one of the projects that Telano oversees is a brownfield in Syracuse, New York, comprised of several hundred acres of landfill that will incorporate solar energy.

    “We pitched an innovative idea to install solar panels with a native vegetation cover system that controls water, in lieu of a typical landfill cover system,” Telano said. “That’s one way we’re taking a brownfield site that can’t be redeveloped and making it useful by implementing renewables.”

    As for the future of remediation, and construction in general, it’s likely to continue to utilize technologies that Honeywell engineers are developing and enabling, such as renewable fuels and green hydrogen to power construction equipment. 

    “We have been focused on mandating the use of renewable fuels for fieldwork equipment,” Telano said. “There is also a shift toward electric vehicles and electrically run construction equipment. Electrification is going to be a big component of the future, not only for remediation but also for construction in general.” 

    For future engineers who want to pursue a career path in environmental remediation, Telano said it’s important to keep your eyes on the shift to electrification and other renewable energy sources – plus other innovations that are in development now.

    “Pay attention to new emerging technologies, keep yourself educated and be open-minded,” Telano said. “What is common practice today will not be tomorrow, and we need to be adaptable.”

    Learn more about Honeywell's commitment to Environmental, Social and Governance.