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Through innovative thinking, The Mannik & Smith Group, Inc., was able to transform dredge material from a once purposeless material into a beneficially reusable resource. Dredge material is used for ecological habitat restoration, and this innovation also has had a positive environmental, economic, and social impact on the greater Toledo area. The Mannik & Smith Group has helped to lay stepping stones for other like companies, providing a blueprint for a more sustainable way of living.
The Mannik & Smith Group fulfills several of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals through their business innovation of utilizing dredge material to revitalize brownfields and wetlands throughout Ohio and Michigan, but more specifically Toledo, Ohio. Dredging is cleaning out the bed of a body of water, such as a harbor or river, by scooping out mud, sediment, weeds, and rubbish with a dredge. By the year 2020, it is expected that a ban or much more strict regulations will be placed on the open lake disposal of dredge material in Lake Erie, so this has influenced Mannik & Smith to come up with an innovative method to use this dredge material in a way that can benefit the environment, the economy, and the community.
In 2010, The Mannik & Smith Group presented the first successful brownfield revitalization project using dredged material in the state of Ohio, and this can be seen at the Marina District in Toledo, Ohio. This project opened several doors for The Mannik & Smith Group, as several governmental agencies and corporations took sight of this unique innovation and wanted their expertise to help complete projects while this innovation was on the forefront. The Marina District-Site Stabilization & Restoration project took place on a 125-acre lot, which is located on the bank of the Maumee River. This area of land underwent several years of contamination through reckless industrial usage, and this posed a very serious environmental and health risk, along with the lack of serving any important purpose. Roughly 7,000 tons of stockpiled dredge from the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority (TLCPA) was used to prevent the sediment laden stormwater from running into the river. The ultimate completion of this project naturally stabilized a previously unusable land source, which added value to the city and increased public safety. Upon the completion of the Marina District project, Mannik & Smith took on several other relevant projects, a couple of which include the Overland Industrial Park (formerly known as the Toledo Jeep Assembly Plant) and Cullen Park, which are both located in Toledo, Ohio.
When Sally Gladwell first showed up at the Mannik & Smith Group in 2009, the restoration practice had become stagnant, mainly focusing on wetland delineations, permitting, and mitigation. Sally noticed that the Toledo area had a growing need for more sustainable practices, mostly pertaining to surface water. The Toledo area has a huge issue with surface water and water quality due to it being located in the area that used to be the Great Black Swamp. This poses an issue because the soils do not absorb water very fast, nor easily, causing a lot of flooding and surface water. This is dangerous in multiple ways, including road flooding and runoff, which eventually makes its way into Lake Erie. This leads into Toledo and Northwest Ohio's overwhelming dredge management issue.
There are more than 800,000 cubic yards of dredged material being removed every year from the Maumee River and other waterways because they become increasingly thick with sediment to the point that boats cannot make their way into the waterway, so all of the sediment must then be dredged out. From here, there is no area to place this dredge that is out of the way, which leads to dumping the dredge back into Lake Erie. This, then, creates a vicious cycle of dredging out waterways to allow for boats to come in/out, then dumping the dredge back into Lake Erie, and having to continuously repeat this cycle. Sally believed that there must be a better solution to this dredge issue instead of just dumping it back in Lake Erie to then be dredged out again because this method lacks efficiency. She came up with the idea of using the dredge materials to restore ecological developments.
Dredge is a mixture of mud, sediment, weeds, and rubbish that is similar to a topsoil. Before dredge is used on a site, it is tested to make sure it meets all of the Ohio cleanup objectives (moreover, that it is not contaminated). Once the dredge is deemed clean, it is added to a site and can be used to stabilize the soil and a site, as well as being a great growth medium for native plants. By adding dredge to wetlands, brownfields, and any other site deemed appropriate, one is able to stabilize the soil, prevent future erosion, and provide a nutrient rich growth medium for native plants. Much of Sally’s inspiration for this innovation came from her desire and strive for a better Toledo. For her, it has always been about what is best for the environment as well as the economy and society, and she is willing to go the extra mile in order to see the changes she wants made. She is extremely passionate about this city and has dedicated her life to its betterment, from applying to countless grants in order to restore brownfields, to coming up with a completely new way to use dredged materials. Sally has always been faced with adversity; people would tell her that Mannik & Smith doesn’t “do certain lines of work,” but their comments never bring her down. She is always quick to respond with, “No, we don’t do them yet, but we will,” which is exactly the mindset and work ethic needed to create and sustain a successful innovation.
The evidence of this innovation is everywhere in the Toledo area. Take a trip to Point Place in Toledo and walk through Cullen Park. When Mannik & Smith first arrived at Cullen Park, it was described as a “scrappy, overgrown neglected park… with three really low quality wetlands that had developed.” Sally thought “… now what are we going to do.. We don't want to fill wetlands… we were already going to design some vernal pools and wetlands, now we will just have to make these low quality wetlands larger and enhance them, make them higher quality.” They, then, enhanced the wetlands, created vernal pools, as well as gravel verges on the side of the parking lot, which acted as a filter to slow down the water coming off the parking lots. This also aided in decreasing the contaminant load because the contaminants would get trapped in the gravel verge as well as the vegetative buffer strips. There are also a few streets that dead end into the park, and they all had huge flooding issues, which caused serious issues for the homeowners who lived on those streets. The water would freeze in the winter, and pool in the summer, making it dangerous to travel through any time of the year. Although this was not a part of their project scope, Sally decided to tie in the catch basins at the end of those streets, bring them through level spreaders (which slow down the flow), and then lead them through the park before the water eventually went into Lake Erie. “...Neighbors were like we love this project, you just alleviated our flooding problem… we [Mannik & Smith] love this project because we just took stormwater of really bad quality, and we’re cleaning it up and slowing it down before it gets into the lake.”
When Mannik & Smith started using this innovation, it changed their whole sustainability practice. They almost immediately started outcompeting other companies for large restoration projects due to their unique use of dredge materials. The University of Toledo noticed all of the work Mannik & Smith was doing, and Sally stated that the University was “working with another consultant to get some Great Lakes restoration initiative money to apply to some brownfield sites, but we [The University of Toledo] don’t really like the site that the other consultant is suggesting and we [The University of Toledo] really like what Mannik & Smith is doing with regard to dredge management because you guys are the only people actually doing something…” This led to The University of Toledo aiding in the revitalization of Overland Park, the former Jeep Plant. This was the biggest brownfield revitalization project in the state at the time, and it included the use of 7,000 cubic yards of dredge material.
Mannik & Smith's’ ingenious innovation with the use of dredge material not only impacts the company, but also the environment and society. The use of this dredge material on sites allows for the use of the sites by the general public and a large array of plant and animal species. Before these sites are revitalized, they can be heavily eroded, covered in invasive species, and be very aesthetically unpleasing. With the cleanup of the site and the addition of the dredge, the site can be turned into a haven with beautiful cover soil, native species, and a nice habitat for all species.
The addition of native plant species creates a domino effect, starting with the stabilization of the soils. Native plants are those plants that adapted in this area, and therefore, are best suited for this habitat. The native plants in this area have very long roots, which assist in bank and soil stabilization, meaning less soil (and future dredge) making its way into Lake Erie. Native plants also attract native animal species due to the fact that they co-evolved in this area. Many native birds and insects rely on the native plants here for food, shelter, and breeding grounds. The flocking of birds and insects then bring in larger mammals and prey animals to the site. Before you know it, there is a booming ecosystem in an area that used to be a deserted site riddled with invasive species and having no positive impact on the environment, economy, or society. The revitalized site creates a suitable habitat for native species as well as an area for people to visit and enjoy nature.
Sally Gladwell, Principal/ Vice President