Environmental remediation is one of those things in life that sounds more exciting than it actually is. Unless you’re moved by fixing what’s broken, cleaning what’s dirty, or you’re being forced to care by an environmental regulatory board, then environmental remediation is probably of no interest to you, but it should be.
So what is it, and why should you care? It’s cleaning up the oil spill. It’s managing a nuclear meltdown. It’s removing contaminants from the nearby river or underground fuel tanks from that property you were going to purchase. It’s removing asbestos and lead paint from an old Brownstone. It’s containing the area, assessing the damage, and cleaning up the polluted mess. It’s not very exciting, it’s just very necessary. In fact without environmental remediation the wetland habitat of Carty Lake in Washington would still be polluted with dioxins.
Environmental remediation is most likely the last thing most people think about until they have to and by then it can be costly. The costs to clean up a polluted site are often projected, based upon the best information that can be gathered at the time of assessment. These forecasts often change once the project begins and more information becomes available, leaving the responsible party shocked with rising totals.
Realizing that environmental remediation is such an “after thought” in life, yet it can affect anyone at any time, it became apparent that more information was needed for the lay person to fully understand the scope of its importance. Here are 3 fast facts to know about environmental remediation that will prepare you for your next green trivia night, property purchase, or environmental disaster!
First, there are 4 major types of environmental remediation; soil, sediment, groundwater, and surface water. That means that those are the elements that remediation specialists will be cleaning the pollution from, utilizing a variety of techniques that are specifically designed to minimize further disruption to the environment and/or nearby species and habitats.
Next, there are as many cleanup programs as there are types of remediation. There’s emergency response for those situations that are of an immediate threat to human health and the environment, clean ups for oil spills, Brownfields, and underground storage tanks. The EPA has made it very easy to find help for your pollution problem, and is a good place to start gathering information related to your project.
Lastly, there is cool scientific terminology associated with environmental remediation and if you know what it means you will appear to have your environmental ships in order. The first is in-situ which means that the contaminated material is treated on site by utilizing soil flushing, vitrification, and thermal treatment techniques. Not to be confused with ex-situ where the contaminated material is removed from the site for treatment or disposal using pump and treat, solvent extraction, thermal desorption strategies.
The benefits of understanding environmental remediation go way beyond mitigating a health hazard or being prepared for environmental emergency. Environmental remediation is about protecting the environment first. However, when it has been determined mankind has failed to do so, it’s about having the tools to assess damage, create action plans, clean up contaminants, and reclaim habitats. Recently New York City has established itself to be a leader in environmental remediation by reclaiming vacant lots, cleaning up pollution, and revitalizing neighborhoods in the process. The project has cleaned up 138 acres of land and removed more than 300 underground storage tanks.
The take away here is that environmental remediation is a necessary function of an evolving world, where humanity often contradicts environmental order in its effort to collaborate in existence and conquer new frontiers. As seen in New York City, environmental remediation can create jobs, reclaim spaces, and improve socio-economic outcomes. Ultimately, environmental remediation is an investment in the future through cleaning up the past.