Environmental Engineering Students Assist Town of Plainfield with Contaminated Site Assessment

From left: Dr. Nefeli Bompoti, Ben Jendak, Michelle Deblasio, Daniel Zeigher, Jennifer Mulqueen, Jackie Sidman, Andrew Michalakis, and Tim Thorland.

Environmental engineering students in Dr. Nefeli Bompoti’s Geoenvironmental Engineering course (CE/ENVE 4530) this spring gained practical experience in contaminated site assessment while providing a much-needed service to a local community in Connecticut’s Quiet Corner. This type of project is generally offered to smaller groups of students through the ENVE 3995 Brownfield Redevelopment Practicum, a service learning course that allows students to assist Connecticut communities with the process of investigating and rehabilitating abandoned sites that are suspected of contamination. However, due to the scope of the work involved, Dr. Bompoti decided to bring her entire class on board to tackle the job.

The class took on a project related to the assessment of the InterRoyal Mill site, the burned ruins of an abandoned mill in the center of the town of Plainfield. The mill, which closed in 1985, was destroyed in April 2005 by a fire that left the site contaminated with a variety of health hazards including lead and asbestos. It is hoped that the site, located behind the Plainfield Town Hall, might one day be rehabilitated and redeveloped for public use. 

Students in the course assisted Plainfield First Selectman Cathy Tendrich and Planning & Zoning Supervisor Mary Ann Chinatti by processing and summarizing data from a lengthy site assessment report. “The project was very hands-on. We are teaching them what they are actually going to do in their future careers,” said Dr. Bompoti, an Assistant Research Professor with the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Project Manager of the Connecticut Brownfields Initiative. “This is a real project that also provides something useful for the town.”

Bailey Dupont, an environmental engineering senior, acknowledged the value of the real-world experience that she gained during the project. “I appreciated this project. Not many instructors arrange real-life projects like this one. It has been incredibly useful. I feel as though this class is one that will stick with me in the next few years as I start a career in remediation.” 

Michelle Deblasio, also a senior in environmental engineering, hopes to apply the knowledge that she has gained from the course in the real world. “I really enjoyed this class and feel like I learned an enormous amount. I’m interning this summer with the RI DEM Office of Waste Management, working on site investigations and inspecting sites that have engineering controls on them, and I’m really looking forward to actually be able to work on a lot of the things that we just learned about!” 

The course was offered in collaboration with the Connecticut Brownfields Initiative (CBI), which is led by the Head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Dr. Maria Chrysochoou. CBI is an initiative that unites industry, academic, community, and government partners to work toward the remediation of Connecticut’s brownfields, community development, and improved environmental quality.