Environmental cleanup is also known as environmental remediation and involves removing pollutants, contaminants, and hazards from the environment. Environmental factors that can be prone to contamination include groundwater, soil and sediment, waterways, and surface water.
Environmental cleanup is highly regulated due to the impacts that improper cleanup can have on the environment, wildlife, and human health. Therefore all risks are assessed thoroughly before cleanup is instigated.
The Environmental Protection Agencies’ Cleanup Programs
The environmental protection agency is the leading body for orchestrating environmental cleanup projects in the USA. The EPA has a variety of different biohazard clean up programs intended to safeguard the environment.
Emergency Response: Involves cases that require immediate action to remediate because they pose a significant threat to life, human health, or the environment.
Superfund Cleanup: Involves cases of large-scale hazardous waste abandonment.
Federal Facilities Cleanup: Any facility owned by the federal government can require environmental cleanup.
Brownfields Cleanup: Involves assessing and providing cleanup grants for properties that may have future use.
Underground Storage Tank Cleanup: The cleaning of underground storage tanks is state-delegated.
RCRA Corrective Action: Like storage tank clean up, RCRA corrective action is state-delegated and manages spills and hazardous chemicals released from waste management facilities.
Oil Spills Cleanup: Involves environmental clean up of oil spills both on land and inland water sources.
Air Pollution Cleanup: Involves preventing, reducing and improving air quality.
Water Cleanup: To maintain clean and safe waterways and preserve the quality of drinking water environmental cleanup is sometimes required.
Methods of Environmental Cleanup
Removing contaminants from soil, groundwater, or surface water can require a variety of different methods, some of which more complex than others. Some of the most common methods for environmental cleanup include:
Pumping and Treatment of Contaminated Groundwater
The groundwater is extracted using a vacuum and the contaminants are extracted from it through a variety of processes. These can include biological treatments, air stripping, and carbon absorption.
Treatment of WasteWater
The wastewater is treated with a variety of decontamination methods such as chemical and biological treatments and physical separation.
Bio-remediation is often seen as the eco-friendly form of environmental cleanup. Micro-organisms break down the contaminants over time. This process may be expedited through the use of cultivation or nutrients.
This method of environmental cleanup is carefully used, as it can contribute to environmental damage when used excessively. High temperatures destroy the organic compounds found within hazardous matter.
Like incineration, this method uses high heat to vaporize organic compounds such as mercury from the soil. Afterwards, the soil is treated, commonly with an afterburner.
Removal and Disposal
This method is probably the most straightforward to understand. The contaminants are physically removed and transported to a suitable disposal facility.
Other less common methods that may be used for environmental cleanup projects include:
Surfactant Enhanced Aquifer Remediation (SEAR)