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file under: Bioremediation, Environment, Federal Government, Sustainability

Six Steps to a More Sustainable Remediation

Superfund Perspectives

Michael MillerMichael MillerMelissa HarclerodeMelissa Harclerode

Integrating sustainability into the planning, design, execution and delivery of remediation projects addresses the three interrelated dimensions of economic growth, social responsibility and environmental stewardship—the triple bottom line. Sustainable remedial approaches can deliver numerous benefits, including improvements to the local environment, regional economy and surrounding community; increased remediation efficiency, and therefore decreased project costs; use of more innovative technologies; and compliance with sustainability related regulations and guidelines.

Here are six ways to make remediation projects more efficient and sustainable:

  1. Use cutting-edge technologies. The use of innovative tools and technologies, such as data visualization, 3D modeling and in situ treatment, often generate less waste and reduce overall project implementation costs. Sustainable processes can be selected based on their capacity to reduce chemical use and greenhouse gas emissions; conserve energy, water and other resource consumption; minimize waste and promote contaminant destruction.
  2. Consider multi-faceted solutions. Thorough characterization and a comprehensive conceptual site model are vital when developing a cost-effective, multi-faceted remedial solution for complex sites. Multi-component remediation strategies often provide the best route to a sustainable solution, and the synergy from integrating treatment technologies—combined remedial approach—can maximize benefits.
  3. Reuse treated media. One aspect of sustainable remediation is identifying and reusing remediated materials or properties. If the treatment is not conducted in situ, stakeholders should consider potential reuse of the treated media. For example, treated groundwater can be reused for irrigation, industrial cooling or drinking water purposes. Excavated soil can be recycled for backfill or placed in a “soil bank” for reuse at nearby construction sites.
  4. Design flexible solutions. Flexible treatment solutions offer efficiency and resiliency during long-term remedial programs by easily adapting to treatment efficacy, unforeseen site conditions and newer technologies. Approaches include integrating multiple technologies (e.g., pump-and-treat phased out by in situ bioremediation) and designing open-ended remediation plans to incorporate newer or more appropriate technologies (e.g., advanced in situ approaches) as cleanup progresses.
  5. Better today and tomorrow’s economy. Through land reuse, job creation, soliciting local vendors and minimizing disruption to local businesses, an efficient, effective and low-impact sustainable remediation project can increase property values, boost economic growth, reduce project costs and increase the local tax base. It can also proactively address future concerns—climate change, public and ecological health—by mitigating their negative effects and eliminating future funding requirements.
  6. Be socially sensitive. Stakeholder and community engagement helps ensure that remedial activities are aligned with project goals. Engagement opportunities can also identify local impacts, such as noise and light pollution, congestion, and health and safety concerns, and the means to address them. Projects can provide amenities, like parks or community centers, which improve quality of life.

Michael Miller, Ph.D., is a principal environmental scientist who specializes in bioremediation as well as other in situ technologies for remediation of contaminated soil and groundwater; the evaluation of the fate and transport of organic and inorganic contaminants in soil, water, and air; environmental statistics; vapor intrusion; and sustainable remediation.

Melissa Harclerode, ENV SP, is an experienced environmental scientist who has been involved in a variety of projects, including environmental assessments, remedial and pre-design investigations, vapor intrusion, sustainability evaluations, and has provided expert oversight and management for several in situ site characterization technologies.