Here’s lookin’ at you, Kid
Whether you’ve determined all-by-your-lonesome that you’ve a site that needs to be cleaned up; or some local, state, or federal functionary comes knocking on your door to tell you the same; the onus is on you to get the job done—legally.
This is what the EPA calls “environmental remediation,” an ominous-sounding moniker that resonates like it was dreamt up by the Department of Corrections (but let’s not go there). It involves the removal of contaminants from soil, groundwater, sediments, surface water, etc.
As you might guess, environmental remediation per the EPA is subject to a basket of general regulations. But in cases where applicable laws are either nonexistent or advisory, your situation might roil up ad hoc requirements based on presumed risks, hitherto unconsidered.
Question: How complicated can Environmental Remediation be? Answer: Very!
Again—at the risk of blogospheric redundancy—as in all things regarding the EPA, getting expert advice is crucial. You just can’t go out with a shovel and wheelbarrow and start digging up contaminants.
Your site needs to be assessed to determine exactly what kind of pollution you’re dealing with. This isn’t a job for liberal arts majors, as it involves soil sampling, chemical analysis, and other hard science that goes totally unappreciated in Art Appreciation classes.
As to the actual cleanup, there are two general classes of technology.
- Ex-situ methods involve extracting the contaminated soil and groundwater, and then hauling the muck offsite to an appropriate treatment facility. As you’re legally responsible for all hazardous waste from cradle-to-grave, you’ll want to make sure that the company you hire is also up-to-snuff on DOT hazmat transportation requirements.
- In-situ methods treat the soil and groundwater without removal. They involve such technologies as “soil vapor or stem-enhanced extraction,” “chemical oxidation,” “bioremediation phytoremediation,” “steam-enhanced extraction,” “thermal desorption,” and other chem-lab esoterica.