This island is exemplary of successful remediation. Its close proximity to downtown Pittsburgh, flat terrain, and consistent views of the Allegheny River make it convenient and enjoyable for walkers and joggers of all ages. Anyone who isn’t familiar with the history of the remediation and development work that turned the former Herr’s Island into the new Washington’s Landing may have a difficult time believing that this beautiful, serene haven was once an environmental nightmare.
Condemned as a contaminated brownfield site in the 1970s, this 42-acre island on the Allegheny River was once home to oil refining and storage, tube works, soap works, stockyards and a rendering plant, scrap-metal recycling, hotels, and worker lodging houses. The most descriptive quote I’ve read tells the story: “Odors from the island’s animal-rendering plant were foul enough to make a fellow just about swear off breathing” (O’Neill, 1986).
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