Environmental remediation refers to the process of removing contaminants from groundwater, soil, or surface water. Different types of environmental remediation services include environmental cleanup, groundwater remediation, land remediation, and brownfield site preparation. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for governing waste management and instituted a program called Superfund to oversee the cleanup of industrial waste.
Environmental cleanup is a broad term used to describe all types of environmental remediation services. Typically, when the EPA finds a site that has hazardous waste not being properly managed, it will require the owner of the site to remove and dispose of the hazardous material in a safe manner. If the threat to human health is large, the EPA may remove the material itself then charge the owner to recover the cost. The EPA will also refer cases of willful negligence to the U.S. Department of Justice for prosecution.
Groundwater remediation is one of the environmental remediation services required to prevent further contamination of the world's underground water supply. The most common methods used are bioremediation, carbon adsorption, and air stripping. Bioremediation involves introducing organisms to the affected groundwater so they can eat the contaminants. Carbon adsorption works by filtering the groundwater through activated carbon which traps the contaminants. Air stripping works by pumping the groundwater through an aeration tank then sending the cleaned water back to the site.
Land remediation is another of the environmental remediation services required to resolve contaminations of soil by hazardous waste. The most common methods are encapsulation, thermal incineration, and bioremediation. Encapsulation involves mixing the soil with other materials like asphalt or concrete. This makes the contaminated soil harden with the other materials and prevents it from seeping into the surrounding soil.
Thermal incineration heats the contaminated soil to very high degrees, which causes the contaminants to vaporize. This is most often used if the contaminants are hydrocarbons. Bioremediation of soil works in the same way as groundwater bioremediation. The organisms eat the contaminated material, usually some form of petroleum, which effectively "cleans" the affected soil.
Brownfield site preparation is yet another form of environmental remediation services. Brownfield is a term used to describe land that was at some point used for industrial or commercial purposes. Depending on the levels and types of contamination, environmental cleanup must be completed in order to re-use these sites for residential or green areas. This may involve groundwater cleanup, land cleanup, or both.