Honeywell, ESF partner to cleanup Solvay wastebeds

Barren waste beds in the town of Camillus, leftover from Allied Chemical and now classified as Brownfield sites, will soon boast rows of willow trees and a thriving wildlife habitat.

Honeywell has partnered with SUNY ESF and other organizations to begin a 'green clean-up' project on the beds, which will involve the planting of 60,000 willow plants.

The willows, a breed developed through ESF research, will help prevent rainwater from percolating through the waste beds, where it would pick up chemicals left behind and carry them through the water cycle.

The tainted soil was made viable by adding biomass such as yard waste from the town of Camillus and agribrew from Anheuser-Busch brewery in Baldwinsville, and tilling the organic layer into the existing soil.

A vegetative cap such as this project provides several benefits over traditional caps, often used for landfills or unusable land. The willows, growing five to seven feet each year, can be harvested every three years and used for manufacturing, while helping to enhance wildlife by creating a habitat where there currently is only open field.

The plants can withstand seven harvests before replanting is necessary, said ESF professor Dr. Tim Volk.

ESF students demonstrated planting the willows Monday as county and local officials gathered with Honeywell and ESF representatives to celebrate the partnership.

Planting the willows is relatively simple - a one-year-old willow stem is pushed into the earth, leaving just inches exposed above ground. In the spring, the willow will sprout and the clean-up process will begin.

In 2003, Honeywell initially joined with ESF to determine if plants could survive on the land. ESF students and faculty drew on 15 years of shrub research and an on-site experimental planting to determine the breed of willow most effective for the job.

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