Site remediation is the process of removing pollutants and contaminants from a plot of land. These pollutants can include many different types of hazardous waste that may be harmful to human health or the environment. This remediation may be aimed at cleaning up the soil, water bodies, groundwater, or air within a particular area.
There are a number of materials that can cause a site to require remediation, including by-products from manufacturing and industrial waste or high levels of chemical concentration from any number of sources. Site remediation is usually aimed at one of four basic types of pollutants, including toxic, flammable, explosive, or disease-causing substances. To determine whether a site requires clean-up, soil and water samples are tested to determine the level of contamination.
Site remediation is often performed on land that has been deemed unlivable by local government bodies or scientific groups. This type of land is known as a brownfield, and clean-up is performed so the land can be developed and used safely. Some remediation projects are performed because the site is a hazard to people in nearby areas. Sites contaminated by nuclear or chemical waste may produce toxic fumes that can travel for miles, or can even leak into groundwater and contaminate local water supplies. Cleaning up the site may not make it safe to live on, but it can help to minimize danger to nearby residents.
In the US, site remediation is overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), while most of Europe relies on a system known as “Dutch Standards.” The EPA manages a program known as “Superfund” to pay for remediation projects. Funds for this program come from fines levied against companies found guilty of pollution activities. Many US cities also offer tax and zoning incentives for developers willing to take on site remediation projects.
There are two types of techniques used to cleanup a contaminated site. Ex-situ techniques involve removing hazardous substances from the area, while in-situ techniques use chemicals and other agents to treat soil and water without removing it. A common ex-situ method is known as “pump-and-dump,” where soil and water are removed and sent to landfills. The most common in-situ technique is the “pump-and-treat,” where dirty soil or water is brought to the surface and treated with chemicals to counteract hazardous substances. The use of bacteria to remove pollutants, a process known as bio remediation, is also growing in popularity.