Sustainable remediation

The term remediation refers to procedures implemented to eliminate contaminants and toxic waste from polluted landfills, water bodies and other places to promote environmental health and safety. Since its inception in the 1970s, remediation itself has evolved into a full-fledged industry. Organizations engaged in environmental construction activities typically execute remediation projects.

In spite of all its benefits, remediation too consumes raw materials and energy. In return, similar to other processes, it releases its own set of wastes in the environment adding to already existing high levels of emissions. These observations led a group of people to think about sustainable remediation which leaves a smaller carbon footprint on the planet.

Sustainable remediation prompts the society to devise and implement pro-environment cleanups. For a given site, professionals advocate implementation of remediation systems with low energy consumption and careful use of resources.

Actively promoting the cause of sustainable remediation is a group of remediation experts who in 2006 formed an organization named Sustainable Remediation Forum (SURF). The group's mission statement is –

'To establish a framework that incorporates sustainable concepts throughout the remedial action process while continuing to provide long-term protection of human health and the environment and achieving public and regulatory acceptance. ' (1)
That the original 20 member SURF became a 300 member strong organization within a short span of three to four years points to the increasing support for sustainable remediation. Similar groups have also started in other countries.

The basic premise of sustainable remediation is to –

• Reduce the usage of natural resources.

• Curtail energy consumption.

• Minimize release of wastes.

• Eliminate contaminants permanently.

• Reuse the cleaned land and resources.

SURF believes that long term changes will come only when professionals carrying out remediation processes make wise decisions and opt for environment friendly sustainable alternatives. Serious efforts are required to raise awareness about the concept of sustainable remediation at national as well as international levels.

Experts are concerned about the potential misuse of sustainable remediation, an excuse some may use to let nature take its course and do nothing about removing pollutants. In some instances, cost and feasibility may drive the use of remediation techniques which may delay the cleanup or leave the site less sterile than desired. Undoubtedly, this form of remediation still poses a risk to environmental health and safety. Educating people about the significance of using environment friendly remediation processes is therefore even more critical.

For lasting positive effects to transpire, it is important that site owners, regulatory bodies, service providers and the general public understand the importance of healthy environment and work together towards its development.

1. Surf White Paper, as on February 18, 2010.

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