The Port of Wilmington has been an industrial powerhouse for centuries. During the Civil War, Wilmington steadily churned out gunpowder, ships, uniforms and other war-related goods. With the advent of automobiles, the city boomed with machinery producers, steel foundries and chemical manufacturers. Now, the local port is known as the hub of produce, touting the largest dockside cold storage facility in the nation, safeguarding the shipment of fruits and juices from around the world.
This industrialization was a boon for Delaware’s economy but a scourge on its soil. As new industries emerged, abandoned industrial sites dotted the riverside. Known as brownfields, these sites hide their histories in soils contaminated with heavy metals.
Fatemeh Izaditame, a 2023 University of Delaware graduate who earned a doctorate in plant and soil sciences
, is determined to discover what happens to these heavy metals in a changing climate. With conservative estimates projecting one meter of sea level rise by 2100, some of today’s brownfields may soon be underwater. Because of the high incidence of arsenic and chromium in Wilmington soils, the city is the perfect location to study the release of contaminants from an urban coastal environment.