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Insight

Six Steps to Sustainable Remediation

Melissa Harclerode, PH.D and Michael Miller, Ph.D.
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:

6 steps to remediation
  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 efficiency, 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.

Stakeholder and community engagement helps ensure that remedial activities are aligned with project goals.
  1. 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.

  2. 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.

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