Insider Account of the 2013 Brownfields Conference Panel —
ASTM Greener Cleanup and Other Tools: Who Can Use Them and How
At this year’s Brownfields Conference, held from May 15-17 in Atlanta, GA, one panel discussion entitled, ASTM Greener Cleanup and Other Tools : Who Can Use Them and How, featured panelist Marianne Horinko, President of The Horinko Group, representing the Sustainable Remediation Forum (SURF). The panel explored the new cleanup standard that aims to provide a systematic process for reducing the environmental footprint of contaminated site cleanups. The session, moderated by Deborah Goldblum of U.S. EPA Region 3, featured speakers with various experiences creating, implementing, or advocating for the standard.
Mathy Stanislaus, EPA’s Assistant Administrator for the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, gave a special introduction to lead off the session. He gave a bit of background on the new principles and emphasized two keys aspects: first, that the principles were designed to be implemented in conjunction with existing regulatory frameworks, and second, they are designed to reduce environmental footprint while moving the cleanup process forward. Stanislaus’ support for these principles, which provide a systematic evaluation tool for greening cleanups rigorously, was echoed throughout the discussion.
John Simon of Gnarus Advisors followed with a comprehensive overview of the standards. He emphasized that the standards are intended to provide a process and technical direction for reducing the footprint of cleanups while maintaining flexibility for different cleanup stages and sites. Their development, which began in 2009, followed the rigorous ASTM process and involved a broad array of stakeholders. The standards uphold a transparent and documented process and are intended to serve as an incentive for greener cleanups. The backbone of the standard is a robust list of over 180 Best Management Practices (BMPs) for cleanups. The four-part process includes an opportunity assessment of feasible BMPs, prioritization of BMPs that will have the greatest impact on footprint reduction, selection and implementation of BMPs, and finally, the reporting on the cleanup and the sustainable approach to it. Quantitative evaluation of this process is possible and encouraged for analyzing footprint and measuring performance of the BMPs applied. As of now, the standards are used on a voluntary basis, but Simon notes that the hope is that regulatory enticement and policy will develop around the standards.
Stephanie Fiorenza, representing BP North America, Inc., a current voluntary user of the standard, spoke next. Fiorenza remarked that BP ran a pilot test of the standards on a service station site using the qualitative BMP list. After assessment, prioritization and selection phases, they implemented 15 BMPs. Fiorenza recommended that the guide be used during remedy design to minimize the footprint and emphasized its usefulness across regulatory programs. BP plans to use the quantitative approach on a larger test site in the next phase as well as complete the reporting components. This experience with the standards in practice was favorable.
Speaking from the state perspective, Heather Nifong, Illinois EPA, likewise touted the advantages of the new standards. She highlighted a few key reasons why these standards serve to mitigate the resource intensiveness of state cleanup programs: uniform process works across regulatory programs, carefully vetted BMPs, reporting and transparency encourage self-implementation, and therefore do not require state regulatory review. Though states have the option of not adopting the standards, Nifong predicted that states will embrace them and offered various ways to incentivize their use including expedited review, discounts or rebates on fees, or recognition programs for standard users. This panelist noted that though the BMPs individually may be minor changes, in aggregate, the standards could have a major impact.
The next panelist, Carlos Pachon of U.S. EPA Headquarters, highlighted the momentum from industry, consultants, engineers and other parties to create these principles. The development and long evolution of the standards involved extensive work with many related regulatory programs and various regions, resulting in a strong base of support throughout the Agency. Pachon too emphasized the importance of transparency and publicly available documentation that the standards require. At this phase, he noted, continuing to spread information about the standards and their availability is essential. With widespread use, the standards have the potential to facilitate a common language for sustainable cleanups.
The final panelist, Marianne Horinko, focused on the growing support for sustainable cleanups, as well as the need to widely advocate for and apply these greener cleanup standards. She has witnessed green remediation principles being embraced by a global audience as nascent cleanup programs are developed in other countries. The new cleanup standards and others like them focus on efficiency in cost, minimizing cleanup time, and reducing environmental footprint, and therefore are a fundamental tool for serving communities in need.
Furthermore, the standards are rigorous and do not allow for “greenwashing,” but still emphasize quick and sustainable cleanups. They provide value to constituents that can be demonstrated through metrics and transparent reporting, and they allow industry and consultants and all those involved with cleanups to do more with less and accomplish cleanup goals in a more sustainable manner. SURF will certainly play a role in amplifying these efforts and spreading these principles with the hope that they become a second nature part of the cleanup process.
The session concluded with an informative round of questions and discussion. This notably touched on the best way to demonstrate the usefulness of the principles and information sharing regarding case studies and pilot tests. There is an abundance of information available on the web via EPA’s site for green remediation (which will publish the list of BMPs later this summer), SURF website, and ITRC’s website. Case studies will become more readily available as the standards are implemented and reports published. Equally, if not more convincing than such case studies, is the common sense implicit in the standards themselves. The standards provide guidance for users to consistently approach cleanups that are quicker, cheaper, and greener.