ReCAP owns a substantial parcel of land as an inevitable consequence of its operational need for storage space and we have the responsibilities that come with that ownership. Above and beyond our mandated duties, we have aspired to be good neighbors and good stewards of the land in our charge. In addition to the bioswale for water management, substantial parts of the ReCAP parcel are kept as open space and have been planted with New Jersey native grasses and wildflowers. These in turn provide important habitat, including butterfly milkweed (Asclepius tuberosa), various coneflowers like black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta), and other plants to support the pollinators that are required in a healthy ecosystem.
ReCAP’s primary environmental impact and our major costs centers are related to energy consumption, and this is the area where the health of library and archival collections and good environmental stewardship are most directly linked. It is important, however, that we are attentive to other areas where our operation consumes resources or creates impact, so that we can be sure that our immediate dollar costs and long term economic impact are positively aligned with our mission and stewardship goals.
ReCAP is built on a site previously used as in aerospace engineering and testing prior to legislation proscribing the use and disposal of a variety of industrial solvents including trichloroethylene (TCE) and tetrachloroethylene (PCE). In developing our site we executed a substantial remediation plan, developed with Princeton University, to meet the standards of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the Freehold Soil Conservation District. The process used bacteria that were introduced via a molasses substrate to break down the TCE and PCE and themselves be eliminated through natural biodegradation.
Soil remediation is a one-time project, but watershed management is an ongoing responsibility. Whenever ReCAP expands its storage infrastructure, it covers over a significant piece of land and vegetation. The resulting hardscape does not retain water from rainfall and snowmelt, resulting in new flows of runoff and higher velocity water movement without soil or vegetation to impede the water flow. For the safety of collections, ReCAP and similar facilities are also logically situated on high ground, so that water runs away from the repository. To compensate for this, ReCAP has installed a large bioswale, a landscape feature that directs surface runoff through a drainage channel filled with vegetation to slow and absorb water and trap silt and pollution before they travel to other sites. This helps to keep water in its naturally occurring zones and to buffer against shocks to adjacent lands and water management systems.