The Celery Fields project has been selected as winner of the Outstanding Achievement Award by the Florida Stormwater Association. The award includes all phases of the project from permitting and design through construction and water quality monitoring over a five-year period. This award joins a national award, the 2013 Environmental Excellence Award for Conservation from the National Association of Environmental Professionals (NAEP).
Up until the late 1980s, the area of Sarasota County known as "The Celery Fields" was used for just that – growing celery and other row crops. For decades, farmers stimulated crops with fertilizers, which eventually caused the soil's arsenic levels to increase. While naturally occurring, arsenic is poisonous to people, and when Sarasota County decided to restore the Celery Fields, it was discovered that the arsenic levels exceeded the maximum allowed limit.
The goal of the $7.2 million Celery Fields Regional Stormwater Facility expansion project was to provide flood protection, wetland restoration habitat, passive recreation, additional flood plain storage, and treatment for more than 3,600 acres of stormwater runoff. But first 1.2 million cubic yards of arsenic contaminated soil had to be removed.