file under: Chemicals, Environment, Food and Beverage, Green Design, Industrial, Metals and Mining, Oil and Gas, Power, Sustainability

Sustainable Remediation

Remediating hazardous sites protects the environment, neighboring communities, and public health. However, cleanup activities create footprints of their own - consuming energy, natural, and material resources; incurring financial risks and burdens; and disrupting the local community and economy. Sustainable remediation is a more holistic approach to achieving site objectives, balancing the conservation of natural resources, economic viability, and enhanced quality of life - elements of the triple bottom line. In other words: people, planet, and profit.

Sustainable remediation is a collaborative process that leverages input from diverse stakeholders, such as the responsible parties, local governments, regulators, and affected businesses and communities. In making decisions, these stakeholders address trade-offs between the cleanup and sustainable aspects of different approaches. Balancing the many environmental, economic, and social goals can help achieve a project's diverse needs and create the best overall solution.

Driving Change
Many factors are driving the sustainable remediation movement. In October 2009, Executive Order 13514, "Federal Leadership in Environment, Energy, and Economic Performance," was signed,which requires agencies to meet energy, water, and waste reduction targets. Facility owners and operators are affected by a host of environmental, economic, and social factors - reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and material consumption, use of renewable energy, water and energy efficiency, life - cycle costs, local job creation, economic development, stakeholder engagement, community outreach, collaborative decisions, and ethical issues.

While there are no regulatory requirements to include sustainable principles in site remediation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and several states have developed green policies designed to protect human health while reducing the environmental footprint of cleanup activities. Many state agencies are watching EPA's  Superfund and green remediation guidelines before developing their own policies and guidelines, but some have forged ahead with state-specific programs, such as California, Illinois, Minnesota, New York, and Wisconsin.

Beyond the state level, ASTM International is using its consensus-based process to develop a remediation standard guide, "Green and Sustainable Site Assessment and Cleanup," in collaboration with industry, consulting, and regulatory agencies. Around the world, many other professional organizations and societies, such as the Interstate Technology and Regulatory Council, Sustainable Remediation Forum, and CL:AIRE (Contaminated Land: Applications in Real Environments) are crafting guidelines that inform regulators, report on sustainable remediation around the globe, and outline sustainable principles and best practices. CDM Smith is partnering with many of these organizations.

Implementing Sustainability
Sustainable remediation is a holistic approach that should be considered in all project stages. However, it can also be beneficially applied to project stages already in progress, including:

Planning: The ideal stage for integrating sustainability is when environmental concerns are first identified. This is the time to engage project and community stakeholders to identify basic site information; potential risks; and the sensitivities, concerns, and goals of affected parties. 

  • Remedial investigation: The environmental impact of site activities can be managed through such sustainable practices as triad dynamic investigations, low-flow or passive groundwater sampling, direct-push technology, field screening analytical methods, and geophysical methods.
  • Feasibility study: For each remedial technology, planners should quantify such factors as energy, water, and other resource needs; waste generation; contaminant removal; risk reduction; and cost. Less tangible factors-community benefits, job creation, property value-should be ranked by their affect on site-specific issues. Sustainability performance of different remedial alternatives can be evaluated by life-cycle assessment calculations. 
  • Remedial design: Sustainable remedies can incorporate design elements like renewable energy, properly sized equipment, variable frequency drives, and high-performance building principles. Remedial designs can lead directly into site redevelopment for community and economic benefits. 
  • Construction/operation: Sustainability goals can be achieved by minimizing heavy equipment use, site traffic, noise, and odors. Using renewable fuels like biodiesel, recycling, sustainable contracting practices, and energy audits can also significantly reduce the long-term footprint.

Be Informed
Global forces like population growth, resource depletion, and increasing carbon emissions will drive remediation and other industries forward along the path of sustainable remediation. This approach will be a catalyst for outreach and education, affecting far-reaching pollution reduction and prevention efforts, as well as increasing community self-sufficiency. To learn more about the value of sustainable remediation, explore the resources above or visit the following websites:

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