Green remediation is the practice of considering environmental impacts of remediation activities at every stage of the remedial process in order to maximize the net environmental benefit of a cleanup. Considerations include selection of a remedy, energy requirements, efficiency of on-site activities, and reduction of impacts on surrounding areas. -US EPA, 2009
The goal of green remediation is to minimize the environmental impact of remedial activities, without compromising the effectiveness of the clean-up. This can be accomplished by reducing:
• Total energy use – fuel burning vehicles, shipment of materials and supplies (from the point of manufacture to the site), computers, lights heat and air conditioning at the office where reports are prepared, fuel or energy required to operate remediation system;
• Byproducts of remediation – CO2, heat, and other byproducts emitted as a result of vehicle use, remedial system operation, and sometime breakdown of contaminants.
A key component to minimize environmental impacts is determining the impacts of off-site activities such as manufacturing, transportation, and power use. For example if a part for a remediation system located in Boston is sourced from a manufacturer in China the amount of energy required for transportation alone can be tremendous compared to local sourcing of parts. As you can see, the environmental impact of a remediation system can be reduced just by changing vendors.
Other ways to reduce environmental impact include:
• Minimize vehicle usage to reduce energy loss through fuel consumption. This does not mean not using vehicles at sites, but rather planning work to make the most effective use of vehicle time.
• Minimize soil and water disturbance during remediation by using in-situ remediation technologies such as monitored natural attenuation and chemical oxidation versus ex-situ remediation technologies such as pump-and-treat groundwater remediation or soil excavation.
There are many ways to make remediation activities more “green,” pre-project planning and on-going analysis during remediation are key components to identify what the true “environmental cost” of remedial activities are.