What is the Purpose Environmental Remediation?
Environmental pollution is a big issue in our world. Pollutants can enter our ecosystems as a result of activities from a variety of agricultural and industrial industries and contaminate many things in the environment such as soil and water. These contaminants need to be dealt with quickly and correctly as if left, they can be potentially harmful to both human and ecological life. Thankfully, today there are strict rules and regulations that involve the removal of these pollutants and contaminants using a process known as environmental remediation.
What is the purpose of environmental remediation?
Environmental remediation refers to the reduction or complete removal of contaminants and pollutants which may be from contaminated soil, water, or sediment. This procedure is carried out in order to protect people and the environment against the potentially harmful impact from exposure to pollutants and contaminants.
Why is environmental remediation necessary?
Previously, a variety of industries performed and developed activities with little regard for the environmental impact. These operations were carried out at a time where laws and regulations were either non-existent or not comprehensive enough which led to the development of contaminated sites. In today’s world, there are now strict procedures in place, but certain industries still release pollutants into the environment which could cause immediate or long-term harm to those that inhabit the area. Environmental remediation is therefore necessary to both reclaim previously polluted areas and to prevent health effects to those living in the vicinity.
When is environmental remediation needed?
Some common pollutants that impact our world include greenhouse gases, toxic chemicals, oil spills, plastic, and other forms of waste. These pollutants can release contaminants into the soil, air, and water as a result of mining, drilling, deforestation, chemical processing, manufacturing and agricultural activities. In the UK, The Environment Agency provides guidelines for when environmental remediation is needed, but in the event the waste may cause a threat to life, immediate remediation is required.
Most common types of environmental remediation
There are three main types of environmental remediation which may be carried out in polluted sites:
1. Soil remediation
Contaminated soil can pose a large number of risks and hazards to the environment and human life through direct contact, ingestion or introduction to the food supply chain. Carrying out soil remediation will remove or reduce soil contaminants including heavy metals, pesticides, and radioactive materials. Depending on the contaminant in question remedial processes may be physical, chemical, thermal or biological.
2. Groundwater and surface water remediation
Water is an essential natural resource for many living systems; therefore, the quality needs to be carefully managed and maintained to ensure it’s safe and fit for purpose.
Groundwater is water that’s underground, usually located in large aquifers or contained in the subsurface layer of rock and soil, this needs to be pumped out so groundwater can be tapped into. Groundwater can be exposed to many contaminants including arsenic, iron, chromium, selenium, and fluorides which may infiltrate the water from contaminated surface water, waste from land or water disposal, dumps, fertilizers and pesticides, spills, and airborne matters.
If the issue comes from above the water table it could be due to septic tanks, landfills, surface impoundments, excavated waste disposal systems, leaking pipes and storage tanks, graveyards, sumps, or dry wells. A problem below the water table could be from well disposal, agricultural drainage wells, mines, abandoned wells, groundwater developments or wet excavations.
Surface water refers to water from exposed bodies such as lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands. This type of water is extremely vulnerable to contamination from a variety of sources, some of the most common being industrial, agricultural and animal waste and acid mine drainage.
3. Sediment remediation
Sediment can be made up of clay, hydrated oxides, organic matter or other soil and water mixtures that are brought into aquatic areas. In order to deal with sediment correctly, both the physical and chemical characteristics need to be assessed before determining the best way to remediate it. Sediment remediation technologies may use physical, chemical, and biological processes to either reduce contaminants or convert it to a less harmful state.
For more information on environmental remediation read our guide on environmental remediation services and learn all about how pollutants are removed from contaminated sites.