Posted in climate refugees, flooding, geothermal, jobs, refinery, remediation, solar, solutions

Nov 22, 2019 testimony at Philadelphia City Council – options for refinery site

Nov 22, 2019 testimony at Philadelphia City Council, video here.


My name is Meenal Raval, a Mt Airy resident and lead volunteer with the Sierra Club’s Rrady for 100 campaign, here in Philly and all of Southeast PA. I’m here today to speak on resolution 190676, to assess our options for the future of the refinery.

Yesterday, I mentioned that we cannot revive the refinery again, nor accept any industry that dumps into the atmosphere.

Being sensitive to near neighbors as well as creating family sustaining jobs, we’ve heard most people suggest something “green”.

We’ve heard mention of solar farms with energy storage. This means ground mounted solar panels generate electricity during the day, and saved in batteries for night time use.

Some people have mentioned geothermal fields offering district heating and cooling. This means pipes going deep in the ground, either horizontally or vertically, where temperatures remain a near-constant 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Bringing up air, water, or coolant from this near-constant 55 degrees means that in the winter, we only need to heat from 55 to 65 degrees. Laying pipes is something our laid-off refinery workers, and even the PGW workforce are skilled to take on.

Some others have dreamt of manufacturing turbines for offshore wind projects. With the nascent offshore wind industry, this idea was brought to Mayor Kenney’s attention by his first transition team, 5 years ago.

A new idea is manufacturing building materials from hemp — a renewable resource.

  • From hemp, we can make hemp-crete, a concrete alternative with 80% lower carbon emissions — because we have an insatiable desire for concrete.

  • From hemp we can make insulation, much needed as we bundle up our buildings for more comfort.

  • Also from hemp we can make paper & textiles. The Declaration of Independence was drafted on hemp; as were ship sails, ropes and clothing.

There are many budding industrial hemp growers across Pennsylvania, who could supply our local market. All of these have the potential to create family sustaining jobs in our city.

Whatever we decide to do, we need to clean up this site.

The past owners have abused this land. Though they have pledged to remediate the land, they have done little. Their plans are based on the assumption that there would continue to be a refinery here. Since this is no longer what Philadelphians want or need, this site needs to be cleaned, I think they call it remediation — for uses other than a refinery. So we ask Evergreen, Sunoco, and PES, to remediate to the highest standard — that of a green space.

With this level of remediation, we could design for public access to our riverfront. We could design for ground mounted solar farms surrounded by plants that invite pollinators — the bees and the butterflies.

We also need to consider flooding of this site due to rising sea levels — another result of a warming planet. I learned yesterday that basements at The Navy Yard get flooded regularly by the ground water seeping up, and that fish have been seen in these flooded basements. So, whether from an instant cloud burst, rising ground water, or rising sea levels — we will get flooded. We don’t need to worry about climate refugees from New York, but instead, from Eastwick, The Navy Yard and South Philadelphia.

With an awareness that some portions will be swallowed up by rising waters, these low lying spaces will need to be remediated to marshland.

The most cost effective way to remediate seems to be by using the mycelium network of mushrooms. I spoke about this at the first meeting of the refinery advisory group. That basically, mushrooms thrive on the hydrocarbons, breaking them down to hydrogen, oxygen and carbon.

Since then, we’ve heard about using bacteria to break down the spilled fossil fuels. From someone who does this type of remediation in Ohio, we learned that “cleanup could take anywhere from less than a year to 5 years depending on level of contamination.”

We’ll need to monitor the remediation costs, so that the insurance proceeds are  adequate for the cleanup work required, before they disappear as bonuses to executives far away. Again, using bacteria and mushrooms to break down the hydrocarbons seem to be the most cost effective way of cleaning up.

We can research and expound on each of these…

  • creating family sustaining jobs,

  • remediation for a use other than a refinery,

  • consideration of rising sea levels

But we need you, Council, to remove all tax incentives and zoning that allowed this refinery for as long as it has. We once offered them all this because we thought we needed this industry. We no longer need the fossil fuel industry, and we need to make it financially unattractive for anyone to restart this refinery.

Thank you!


 

Posted in clean renewable energy, geothermal, Refinery Advisory Group, remediation, solar

About that refinery that just closed…

On June 21, 2019 the PES refinery in South Philly had an explosion and fire. This incident has received much media coverage. We covered it on a radio episode of Philly Talks Climate on June 28, 2019, see Pay up, PES! …and please clean up on your way out.

On August 6, 2019, at the first public meeting of our City’s Refinery Advisory Group, this is the picture I painted…


Hello, my name is Meenal Raval. I live in Mt Airy, about 10 miles north of here. 

We’re thankful there were no casualties from the 6/21 incident at the refinery. We’re also thankful this refinery has closed. We need to ensure that it remains closed. And focus on the task at hand — to reclaim the land for other applications, ones that don’t involve fossil fuels, in line with our City’s climate action goals. Because we all have a Right to Breathe!

Remembering our City’s Zero Waste by 2035 goal, and knowing there’s no “away” to take the contaminated soil to, we need to clean the soil in place. 

When we look at flood maps, for instance choices.climatecentral.com, most of the refinery land could be submerged given the rate and direction we’re headed with the climate crisis. We recommend cleaning it up as best as we can before this happens, to recreate the marshland and green space we’ve lost where the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers meet. Most people would not hesitate to support a complete Schuylkill River Trail.

How? In one word — myco-remediation, or remediating using the mycelium network of mushrooms. Myco-remediation works in two ways — pulling up elementals and breaking down compounds.

Elementals like lead are pulled up and into the mushroom fruit, which can be harvested, dehydrated and incinerated, with the resultant ash treated as hazardous waste.

Compounds (like petro-chemicals formed from hydro-carbons) actually feed the mycelium, which break the hydro-carbons down into innocuous elements like hydrogen, carbon and oxygen and help the mushroom fruit thrive! If no heavy metals are found in the soil, the mushrooms from a petro-chemical site can be harvested and added to the compost pile, for future soil enhancement.

Our understanding is that multiple crops and harvests can pull up the heavy metals, break down the hydro-carbons, and leave us with living, fertile soil. I was told that about 3 growing cycles, all of which could take place in just one year, would be enough to remediate the soil. I’ve also learned that myco-remediation is best done with mycelium from spent substrate from a mushroom farm! And.. that myco-remediation is cheaper than any other form of remediation. 

Most people I’ve spoken with suggest some form of renewable energy at this site, such as geothermal fields and solar farms. After soil reclamation, I sense that a pollinator friendly solar farm would be very popular, allowing for local food production in this area also. 

With our region being the mushroom capital of the US, this could be a great Philadelphia story — land reclamation, green space, clean energy and local food. These are the type of jobs people would clamor over. 

Thank you!! 


Some easy reading references on myco-remediation