What is Soil Remediation?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Soil remediation is the collective term for various strategies that are used to purify and revitalize soil. This process of soil cleanup is part of a broader effort known as environmental remediation, which can also include efforts to purify the air and other wise repair damage done to the ecological balance of the planet. Many countries are actively engaged in some type of land remediation, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and the United States.

Soil sometimes needs purifying and revitalizing.
Soil sometimes needs purifying and revitalizing.

In most cases, efforts aimed at cleaning up the soil are structured at national government levels. In the United States, the approach to soil remediation is based on directives issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In Canada, the Council of Ministers of the Environment provide support to the collective efforts of each province to conduct remediation and reclamation efforts relevant to the environmental challenges of each geographical location. At present, the countries involved in the European Union are also creating standards that will serve as the foundation for organized remediation strategies.

Soil remediation can be used to revitalize soil for agricultural development.
Soil remediation can be used to revitalize soil for agricultural development.

There are a number of different methods currently employed in the process of dealing with soil contamination. Often, the selection of the most effective strategy will depend on the nature of the contamination, how the method will impact surrounding wildlife or humans living in the general vicinity, and the degree of success that can be anticipated from the soil remediation effort. It is not unusual for a given tract of land to undergo more than one cleanup operation in order to deal with the presence of multiple contaminants.

Among the processes used in soil remediation, excavation and dredging are among the most common. This process involves extracting soil that is contaminated and deemed to be unrecoverable using current technology, and transporting it to a landfill set aside for this purpose. Often, purified soil is used to fill in the area where the extraction took place.

Soil remediation is sometimes accomplished using a process known as pump and treat. Essentially, this approach involves the removal of contaminated ground water, then using various methods to purify the extracted liquid. While the water is purified, the soil is also extracted and filtered to remove various contaminants, then returned to its original position. The purified water is pumped back into the purified soil, effectively restoring the ecological balance of the area.

As technology advances, newer methods at reclaiming contaminated soil are under development. This will make it possible to purify land and make it possible to use the area for growing food, creating wildlife preserves, or even allowing humans to safely construct dwellings or commercial buildings in the area. At the same time, ridding the ground of unsafe contaminants will support efforts to clean the air and water, making the world a safer place for all living things.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


Great article and information links!

If possible, using "nature's choice" for remediation is better than using chemicals. The bacteria multiply on their own if nurtured and monitored correctly and the manufacture of these little workers is cheap - almost free. Augmentation with bacteria will not help if the bugs doing the work do not have their appropriate nutrients (N:P:K).

A simple suitability test is available and can save costs on unnecessary bacteria augmentation. Addition of appropriate nutrients may kick start your indigenous colony to start working better than what a bacterial addition alone would do.

Consumers be aware that some bacteria solutions may still contain chemicals like surfactants/emulsifiers that are not suitable for waterways or other exposure pathways.


In-situ soil remidiation (as mentioned above) is the best choice and can be fast in very sandy soils. However, it doesn't work with too much clay in the soil. Also, forcing a chemical reaction or a biological reaction sounds simple, but the risk of ending up with even more dangerous products is huge. It's never simple.


@David09 - Those are some of the methods used, but I think In-Situ Chemical Oxidation is the cheapest and most effective method of the soil remediation techniques. With this approach, chemicals are applied directly to the area with the contaminants to destroy them, and then they treat the groundwater without leaving any waste by-products.

From what I understand this produces dramatic results in mere days, as opposed to months or years with the other methods.


Groundwater remediation became a necessity as a result of massive pollution and waste. Fortunately people have become more environmentally conscious, but still you will sometimes see landfills that create toxic environments and so it’s necessary to clean up the soil to make the water suitable for drinking.

Scientists use a variety of techniques to do this. If you’ve ever seen an oil spill, you’ve seen one such technique. Living organisms are deposited into the soil to break down and “eat up” the pollutants. These organisms are biodegradable, so once they’ve done their part they can just become part of the ecosystem without destroying the environment. I think this is one of these best methods used because they’re using nature to help it clean up after itself, so to speak.

Of course, this is not the only method used. Scientists also pump out the water and clean it up as it gets sucked up into the surface. Another technique is to use air bubbles to force the water to the surface, cleaning up the impurities as they rise.

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