Friday, January 29, 2021

Can the Bay Be Turned into Bricks and Mortar?

Chesapeake Bay Mag, Port Of Baltimore Could Recycle Sediments into Bricks and Concrete

The Port of Baltimore has already repurposed tons of dredged materials from its shipping channels to restore Poplar and Hart-Miller islands in the Chesapeake Bay.

Now, two companies will study the possibility of reusing dredged sediment to create concrete road barriers. Governor Larry Hogan and Maryland’s Board of Public Works approved the contracts Wednesday. Three other contracts have already been approved to test the use of dredged materials to make bricks and pavers, shoreline protection barriers, and even soil for growing sod.

“These innovative uses could turn sediment that builds up in the Chesapeake Bay into a valuable resource for making bricks, concrete and even structural support for shorelines,” says Gov. Hogan.

The shipping channels that lead to the Port of Baltimore must be routinely dredged to keep lanes open for the deep-water ships that call on Baltimore, so there is no shortage of mud, sand and sediment from the bottom. The port says an average of 4.7 million cubic yards of material must be dredged every year, from the 150 nautical miles of channels in the Bay, Patapsco River, and Baltimore Harbor.

The Hart-Miller (Baltimore County) and Poplar (Talbot County) island restoration projects have made good use of the dredged material, and James and Barren islands in Dorchester County are next to be rebuilt. But the new sediment-recycling study contracts could allow for more innovative use of dredged materials.

New productive solutions for dredged materials will allow the port to continue dredging without fear of where to put the surplus muck.

“This allows us to continue removing dredged sediment from our channels to maintain the 50-foot depth needed to accommodate the supersized vessels that bring cargo and jobs to the Port of Baltimore while recycling that sediment to use again in other ways—a real win-win,” says Maryland Port Administration Director William P. Doyle.

In each of the newest studies, contractors will use sediment from the port administration’s Cox Creek Dredged Material Containment Facility outside Baltimore. Harford Industrial Minerals Inc. will study use of dredged sediment in structural concrete and fill. And Susquehanna Concrete Products Inc. will study use of the sediment for general-use concrete products like retainer walls and blocks.

I don't really see that there's that much to study. People have been making mud and sand into bricks and mortar for millennia; it ain't exactly rocket science. What I question is whether there's enough demand for bricks and concrete made with river mud to come anywhere closed to solving the problem of where to dispose of all the sediments that accumulate in the harbor.

On the other hand, we have a proven solution; using the sediments to restore eroded islands. News on that front, Poplar Island Ecosystem Restoration Expansion Complete, Open to accept Dredge Material

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District, completed construction of the Poplar Island Ecosystem Restoration Project lateral expansion Jan. 20, 2021, providing 575 additional acres, including four new wetland cells and one large upland cell. The project is now able to accept dredged material associated with the approach channels to the Port of Baltimore until around 2032.
And once Poplar Island is finished, they already have plans to move on and restore Barren Island and James Island. If they can used the sediment to make bricks and concrete, great, but I don't see pressing need.

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