Environmental Remediation Definition and Techniques
Environmental pollution is one of the most existential threats our world faces. Beginning in the Industrial Revolution, humans began disposing of hazardous waste in natural areas, damaging these sites dramatically and harming human and animal health.
Energy consumption in the United States, for example, resulted in almost 5.27 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2018, which is approximately 15.8 metric tons per person.
Cleaning up environmental pollution is essential for everyone’s wellbeing. The problem is significant, though, so many people feel understandably overwhelmed when it comes to solving it. If you want to know how to clean up pollution and ways to make a difference, this article will walk you through how environmental remediation works and how you can get involved.
The Basics of Environmental Remediation
The removal of environmental contaminants is known as “environmental remediation.” The law requires companies or organizations that are guilty of contaminating the environment to rectify the issue. However, they may not be qualified or trusted to spearhead these efforts unsupervised, so specialists in environmental remediation exist to help coordinate the process. As such, environmental remediation can consist of large-scale efforts, but it is also possible for individuals to contribute in smaller ways.
Common Types of Incidents Requiring Remediation
Examples of pollutants include greenhouse gases, toxic chemicals, particulate matter, oil spills, radioactive contaminants, plastic waste, other forms of trash, and more. These contaminants can be released into the soil, air, and water (including groundwater) from activities such as mining, drilling, deforestation, chemical processing, agriculture (using pesticides and fertilizers), and manufacturing.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) establishes standards that determine when environmental remediation is necessary, though additional legislation may affect different areas. Immediate remediation is often required in emergency cases that pose an imminent threat to ecological and human life, such as oil spills.
What Is the Environmental Remediation Process?
The remediation process often entails the following steps:
- Site Assessment: First, specialists will examine the site to ascertain what contaminants are present. They will map the area and sample materials such as soil and groundwater to evaluate the extent of the pollution and how much effort will be required to remove it.
- Determining Remediation Methods: Next, specialists will determine appropriate cleanup methods. Environmental remediation techniques include excavation, dredging, oxidation, soil vapor extraction, thermal desorption, pump and treat, nanoremediation, and more.
- Selecting Safety Measures: Environmental remediation specialists will also assess what safety measures will need to be enforced to protect the cleanup crew and community members from injuries, exposure to toxic chemicals, and prevent wrongful death. Rezoning may be necessary during or after a remediation operation, so specialists communicate with public officials to inform them what the remediation process will entail and how it may affect daily life.
- Remediating the Area: Environmental remediation specialists will then conduct the actual cleanup, complying with local and federal regulations.
- Further Evaluation: Once the cleanup is complete, specialists will re-examine the area to determine if their efforts were successful or if additional remediation is necessary.
How to Get Involved With Cleaning Up Pollution
Environmental pollution is an institutional problem, so agonizing over buying paper versus plastic at the grocery store is not going to save the environment while the corporations responsible for a significant amount of pollution are still at large. That said, it is always worth making eco-conscious efforts in daily life.
For instance, you can pick up litter, recycle as much as possible, reduce the amount of energy your home consumes (and switch to solar energy if you can afford the upfront costs), bike instead of drive, and educate others. While it seems daunting, these efforts are worth making for the environment’s wellbeing.
Organize a Community Clean-Up
If you want to take your community’s environmental remediation efforts further with the resources available to you, organize a community cleanup! You can have volunteers collect litter and other contaminants (that are safe to do so) from neighborhoods, parks, beaches, rivers, forests, and other local areas.
Discarded cigarette butts, for instance, are a significant and toxic type of litter that you can organize your community around cleaning up. Recruit volunteers, delegate roles, and compose a detailed plan that includes safe disposal.
Don’t forget, though, that one of the best ways to make an impact is to affect policy. Campaign, petition your representatives, or run for local office to ensure that once the environment is cleaned up, it won’t be necessary again.
Seek a Career in Environmental Remediation
Do you have a passion for sustainability and environmental protection? Then pursuing a career in environmental remediation is an opportunity to put that passion to use.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not have data explicitly for environmental remediation workers, but the Green Goods and Services sector’s job outlook is promising. Environmental remediation occupations include:
- Emergency management directors;
- Construction managers;
- Chemical technicians;
- Conservation scientists;
- Environmental scientists;
- Environmental engineers.
Environmental Cleanup Safety Tips
Contaminants that harm the earth can also be detrimental to human health. Toxic chemicals, for instance, can end up in drinking water and cause cancer, heart disease, respiratory diseases, neurological disorders, and other illnesses. Bacterial and parasitic diseases can also spread through polluted water.
Legal representation can help compensate you if you are a victim of environmental contamination or improperly performed cleanup procedures (such as an injury due to an accident on cleanup premises), but the best protection is to be prepared. If you intend to participate in some form of environmental remediation, then safety measures you should take include:
- Using protective gear, such as chemical-resistant suits, gloves, and boots, and masks;
- Washing yourself and your clothes post-cleanup;
- Staying away from electric cables and other hazards;
- Being alert for wild animals and reacting appropriately when you encounter them;
- Staying hydrated throughout the day and avoiding heat;
- Being cautious if operating heavy equipment.
Environmental remediation is essential. There are many ways to clean up pollution, ranging from small-scale personal efforts to professional endeavors. However you decide to contribute, make sure you do so safely and with proper training if necessary.