Sunday, April 24, 2016
“LANSING, MI — You’ve undoubtedly seen them: Abandoned gas stations marked by weedy pavement and the crumbling remains of a building and canopy. Unfortunately, the largest hurdle to redeveloping these eyesores is not what’s above the pavement, but below: Underground gasoline storage tanks that are either leaking outright or encased in tons of gas-laden soil. Michigan spends about $30 million every year to clean up, or “remediate,” these sites because the contamination poses serious risks to groundwater and, too often, there’s nobody left to pay for digging out the old tanks and removing the soil.”
The SENCER model Brownfield Action addresses the often overlooked environmental hazard of abandoned gas stations. In this interdisciplinary geoscience course students are presented with a fundamental problem in environmental forensics (i.e., what is the nature and extent of environmental contamination at a specific site and who or what is responsible?) and they are charged with discovering what means are available to address the problem and at what cost. Using a web-based 3-dimensional simulation of a town, students are organized into environmental consulting teams charged with investigating and cleaning-up an abandoned gas station in an urban area.
Photo credit: Allie Osmar Siarto (CC BY-NC 2.0)