Green, Sustainable Remediation Provides Environmental, Economic, Social Benefits

By Pat Ware

May 15 --Using green and sustainable remediation (GSR) to clean up hazardous waste sites can maximize environmental benefits, minimize costs, and balance the goals of a community, an industry official said May 15.

Rather than just considering environmental outcomes, GSR considers all potential environmental, social, and economic risks, Buddy Bealer, regional manager for policy and advocacy at Shell Oil Products U.S., told a webinar sponsored by Bloomberg BNA. Bealer also is the director of the Sustainable Remediation Initiative, which seeks to promote sustainable remediation throughout the U.S.

GSR refers to the use of products, processes, technologies, and procedures, on a site-specific basis, that lessens the risk of contaminants, he said. At the same time, the process uses decisions that are cognizant of community goals, economic impacts, and net environmental benefits, Bealer said.

Prepared by the Horinko Group, the webinar looked at the rise and future of GSR.

Originally, remediation of hazardous waste sites consisted of treating contamination on-site and cleaning it up to background or maximum contaminant levels, according to Bealer. Because of the laws of physics, though, contaminants tend to stay in soil and groundwater, making cleanup expensive and time-consuming, he said.

Remediation then evolved to meeting a conservative risk-based standard, but achieving the increasingly lower levels of standards is difficult, he said. In the next step, cleanup became risk management-based, which looks at the source, potential receptors, and exposure pathways in examining the risks for humans and the ecology, Bealer said.

Cleanup evolved to green remediation, which considers risks to the greater environment but not economic or social ones, he said. The latest type of cleanup, GSR, considers all three risks, he said.

To promote GSR, several U.S. organizations have collaborated to advocate its use and understanding. Among these are the Sustainable Remediation Forum, the Interstate Technology & Regulatory Council, and API Energy, according to Bealer.

Superfund Case Study.

Stephanie Fiorenza, a technology specialist for BP North America Inc.'s Remediation Engineering and Technology group in Houston, gave an example of applying GSR at a superfund site in New York she didn't name.

Groundwater at the site, where a former refinery was located, was contaminated with hydrocarbons that had the potential to flow downriver, she said. The site is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency Region 2 and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

An existing remedy for such cleanup is capturing the groundwater plume and treating it with chemicals, Fiorenza said. The regulators and interested parties, however, chose a better remedy that uses a constructed wetland for treating extracted groundwater.

Today, the site is covered with turf grass and surrounded by a chain link fence that prevents the community from reaching hiking trails, she said.

Natural Grass Replacement.

The planned restoration will replace the turf grass with natural grass, which will attract birds and waterfowl, Fiorenza said. In addition, the restoration will eliminate the use of chemicals and save significantly on energy consumption.

To benefit the community, the fences will be removed, offering people access to bird watching stations and hiking trails, she said. Also, a planned environmental center connected to a state college will be housed in one of the buildings on the site.

In addition, money will be saved through reduced energy consumption, Fiorenza said.

The superfund case study is one of the simplest examples of using GSR, using only best management practices and simple strategies, she said.

Karin Holland, senior sustainability specialist at the management consulting firm Haley & Aldrich Inc., said GSR best management practices include:

• minimizing impacts to natural resources,

• engaging interested parties,

• identifying recycling and reuse options,

• maximizing renewable energy use,

• using local labor and resources, and

• reusing unaffected soil.

Stages of Implementation.

Holland said the three stages of GSR implementation are planning, evaluation, and closeout.

GSR could be applied during planning and incorporated into remedy evaluation and selection, she said.

During the remedy design step, GSR could be integrated into the selected remedy, Holland said. In addition, GSR could be an integral part of remedy construction, and cumulative benefits resulting from GSR could be found in operation, maintenance, and monitoring, she said.

The use of GSR could improve performance of existing remedies and, Holland said, during closeout, could support site reuse.

By Pat Ware

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