Located in southern Florida lies CSX’s Nocatee Site, a unique parcel encompassing approximately 100 acres with a variety of habitats including wetlands, prairie uplands, riparian buffers, grasslands and a mesic oak wooded area.
[do_widget id=fpw_widget-2 title=false]The Nocatee site operated as a wood-treating facility, which left much of the site’s soil contaminated by chemicals, specifically creosote (a wood preservative). As a result, the site was designated a Superfund Equivalent Site by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the late 1990s.
CSX developed a Remedial Action Plan and, once approved by the EPA, began work on excavating and removing the affected soil in compliance with EPA environmental standards. The company partnered with Arcadis (a design and consultancy firm) to design an environmentally-conscious plan and manage the project. According to Arcadis Project Environmental Scientist Jason Diamond, construction began in 2014, with remediation of the site taking the entire year.
“It was a massive endeavor and, throughout, we remained committed to the sustainability of the site,” said Diamond. On-site consolidation and containment of affected soils and the use of on-site borrow pits for soil backfill reduced the carbon footprint of the site restoration. Trees removed during land clearing were reused as habitat and mulch throughout the site. Additionally, systems designed for in-situ treatment were put into place to treat affected soil and groundwater.
During the site’s remediation, a number of gopher tortoises and burrows were found. Since the gopher tortoise is listed as a state-threatened species, a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) permit is required when work is conducted within 25 feet of a burrow. The team of CSX employee volunteers worked closely with the FWC to excavate 119 burrows and capture and relocate 37 gopher tortoises to a recipient site.
Much of the habitat program at Nocatee focuses on the site’s several wetlands, which includes a 35-acre parcel of the Peace River Floodplain. For restoration of the floodplain, the team planted native wetland plant species, both to prevent erosion and to create wildlife habitat. Since the floodplain’s restoration, the team has observed hydric soil conditions and a survival rate of more than 85% of the established native plants. CSX’s successful restoration of the floodplain, along with its work on the other on-site wetlands, led to Nocatee Site being awarded the inaugural Wildlife Habitat Council Project Award for Wetlands and Water Bodies in 2016.
Other projects include the establishment of native grasslands to provide habitat for pollinators, especially the monarch butterfly during its migration to and from the state. In addition to native plantings, the team created an on-site irrigation source for the pollinator habitat, using artesian wells found on the property as a built-in water source. Because of its successful pollinator habitat, Nocatee Site has been certified as a Monarch Waystation by Monarch Watch.
Since the Nocatee Site is so remote – located hours from the nearest CSX facility and with no operating track nearby – CSX works closely with several partners to ensure the success of its program. Site visits from CSX project managers, along with Arcadis employees, ecologists and a local nursery, are scheduled throughout the year to perform monitoring and maintenance of the site’s habitats. Said Diamond, “Although we are extremely proud of the work we have done thus far at the Nocatee Site, we are not even close to finished. We have a number of projects in the pipeline and are looking to the future.”
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