RiverLink announces another step towards completion of Karen Cragnolin Park

The red “X” marks the spot!

The site of the EDACO junkyard for over 20 years, RiverLink’s Karen Cragnolin Park on Amboy Road in West Asheville has taken one more step towards becoming a part of Asheville’s ever-expanding greenway system. Using a process known as “phytoremediation,” We have been working to clean the contaminated soil on the site since 2013.  After taking soil samples on the last of 26 pockets of contaminated soil earlier this month, we’re pleased to announce the samples were proclaimed within safe limits of contaminants by Pace Analytic Services, the EPA-mandated laboratory testing the site. 25 contaminated “hot spots” had already been cleared by the lab.

In 2006 RiverLink purchased this 5.3-acre property contiguous to the former Asheville Motor Speedway, which we bought in 1998 and transformed into Carrier Park. EDACO advertised that it was the only junkyard in the U.S. surrounded by public parks and that you could “buy your parts in the park.” After RiverLink acquired the property, we worked with D.H. Griffin Wrecking Company, who donated materials and manpower to recycle an estimated 100,000 tons of concrete that covered the entire site. The 8-foot concrete cap was recycled into asphalt and sold.

RiverLink bought the property by the French Broad River as a “missing link” in the Amboy Road section of the Wilma Dykeman RiverWay Plan with grant funds provided by the Janirve Foundation, the Clean Water Trust Fund, the Stanback Family Trusts and the sale of one-foot “deeds of support,” deeds for sections of greenway for $50 a foot.

We worked with Dr. Ari Ferro, an expert in phytoremediation, to develop and document the process as it cleaned the contaminated soil, known as Volatile Organic Compounds or VOC’s. One of the many benefits of using phytoremediation is that the cleanup can occur in-situ, meaning “in place,” without removing and transporting the contaminated soils to another location. This cost-effective “green” technology uses plants to “vacuum” VOC’s from the soil through their roots.

In the phytoremediation process, native grasses were infused with a bacteria cultivated from the site that can only survive on the Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOC’s, found in the soil at the old junkyard. A Belgian company associated with the Research Triangle Institute in Raleigh/Durham developed the bacteria using the contaminants in the soil. This bacteria can only live on the VOC’s discovered in the soil and as the bacteria eats away, or “vacuums” the contaminants, the bacterium dies off since its only food source are these VOC’s.

The property now faces another round of testing, after which a landscape plan will be developed, moving the site closer to becoming a link in the greenway paralleling Amboy Road and the French Broad River. The Karen Cragnolin Park phytoremediation project is one more chapter in RiverLink’s history of successful park and greenway creation. RiverLink is an environmental non-profit based in the River Arts District of Asheville working to promote the environmental and economic vitality of the French Broad River and its watershed as a place to live, learn, work and play.

Dr. Farro holds a freshly-dug “bridal veil,” a nylon mesh used for soil sampling.

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