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Reclaiming a Toxic Waste Site

The Story of Fox Point State Park

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Fox Point State Park is the culmination of neary fifty years' work. The land that the park occupies was created when the Pennsylvania Railroad began filling in the bank of the river along its right-of-way to create additional industrial land. S. Marston Fox, for whom the park is named, began a battle in 1958 to stop the filling process and turn the four-mile stretch of shoreline over to the people of Delaware. It wasn't until the late 1970s that the land finally was turned over to public control. Led by Rep. David Ennis and Eugene "Tom" Snell, the Fox Point Civic Association took up the fight to turn the area into parkland following Fox's death in 1982. In 1990, the land was turned over to the state by New Castle County and the remediation process began.

Past dumping practices at Fox Point had contaminated the soil at the site.These practices included the disposal of industrial waste and the application of sewage sludge. In order to use the land as a park without endangering the health of the employees and visitors, specialists were called in.

While remediating hazardous waste sites is a daily function of DNREC's Site Investigation and Restoration (Superfund) Branch, the ultimate goal of making this property a riverfront park gave this cleanup a unique twist. The proposed remedy selected for this site is one commonly used at landfills - a cap system. Under this plan, an impermeable layer of thick plastic was placed over the 15 acre surface of the site to isolate the contaminated material. Layers of sand, clean fill and topsoil were placed above and below this plastic liner for drainage and the support of future vegetation.

Using a cap to transform this hazardous waste site into a functional state park involved some challenging decisions. For example, a method of installing foundations for park pavilions and other structures without puncturing the plastic liner, had to be considered.

DNREC's involvement has not ended. Monitoring and maintenance of the protective remedy is ongoing. A mesh fence serves as a border to the remaining acreage of the park that awaits remediation.

Phase two of Fox Point's development will include a three-quarter mile loop with fitness stations located along the way. The area inside the loop will be planted with wildflowers to lessen the impact on the environment and reduce maintenance costs. A multi-purpose building will be used for interpretation, conferences, educational activities and other functions. An outdoor amphitheater, a "secret garden" for children, and a boat launching facility at the northern end will make Fox Point State Park even more a family park.

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