The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to construct a 1,100-ft long sheet pile wall to anchor the remediation strategy for a contaminated 48-acre former industrial site along the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River in Portsmouth, Va.

To be constructed approximately 250 ft offshore from what was for 66 years a major wood treatment facility operated by Georgia-based Atlantic Wood Industries, the wall will serve as a containment barrier for several thousand tons of creosote- and PCB-contaminated sediment that will be dredged from the river.

The entire remediation program, which also includes site work to address contaminated soils and groundwater, is projected to cost $100 million. Atlantic Wood, EPA, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the U.S. Navy will contribute an unspecified amount to the clean-up.

Placed on the EPA’s National Priorities List in 1990, the site is part of an industrialized waterfront area that also includes the adjacent Norfolk Naval Shipyard. Along with its wood treatment operations, Atlantic Wood leased part of the property to the Navy during World War II for equipment storage and sandblasting work.

EPA considered a number of clean-up strategies before opting for constructing a containment wall in 2007. Subsequent discovery of more extensive contamination has increased both the project’s scope and cost.

EPA project manager Randy Sturgeon says the wall is the best option, considering the prohibitive cost of off-site disposal.

According to Sturgeon, the sheet pile wall is being designed by Long Beach, Calif.-based Moffatt & Nichol as a subcontractor to remediation designer EA Engineering Science & Technology, Hunt Valley, Md.

The structure will include 104-ft long pipe piles varying in thickness from .5 to .75 inches. The north end will be tied to an onsite earthen berm that will be funded by a $3.7-million stimulus grant, while the south end will connect to a landside sheet pile wall. Sturgeon said that EPA hopes to award a construction contract for the wall and other project elements this fall. The Corps of Engineers’ Norfolk District will handle construction management.

Though no timetable has been set for completion of the wall or other remediation work, EPA is hopeful that the strategy will transform the site into a usable industrial property, including the creation of six acres of new waterfront property.

“Reuse of land is a large priority for EPA,” Sturgeon says.

According to published reports, Virginia environmental officials initially objected to the wall and had attempted to block the project until the state’s Attorney General ruled that such an action was not possible. Virginia has yet to sign off on a plan to assume maintenance of the wall 10 years after its completion.