What is Waste Remediation?

Mary McMahon

Waste remediation is a process in which contaminants are removed or rendered neutral so that they cannot cause harm. The remediation of hazardous waste is an ongoing project in many nations of the world, as they deal with the continuing production of hazardous waste and the cleanup of waste which was produced in prior eras when environmental regulations were less stringent. Companies which specialize in waste remediation can offer very specific services, such as cleanups of particular types of waste or specific environments, or they may offer more general waste remediation services.

A landfill.
A landfill.

The idea behind waste remediation is that hazardous waste needs to be handled with care to avoid polluting the environment. The process starts with an assessment of the site to determine the remediation needs. In an abandoned contaminated site, people identify the types of waste present and their locations. In a site where hazardous waste is generated as part of site operations, people determine what kind of waste is being produced so that they can establish handling protocols for it.

Cleaning up an oil spill is one form of environmental remediation.
Cleaning up an oil spill is one form of environmental remediation.

Waste remediation can be approached in a number of ways. In some cases, the waste is actively removed, in which case specialized equipment needs to be used, the waste has to be packaged properly for transit, and the waste has to be moved to a location which is equipped to handle it, such as an incineration facility or well-sealed landfill. Removal is often deemed preferable because it keeps the site clean, and allows for future reuse of the site without needing to worry about contaminants.

In other cases, waste may be isolated and contained on site because it is not practical or too costly to remove the waste. Waste remediation of this type involves the establishment of a suitable containment facility, the sequestration of the waste, and proper sealing of the containment facility. For example, remediators may opt to cap a contaminated brownfield with concrete, or bury waste on site in a concrete bunker.

Environmental cleanup can also involve the neutralization of waste on site. Oil eating bacteria, for example, can be released at the site of an oil spill to get rid of the hazardous waste. This technique is appealing in some cases because it eliminates the waste altogether, rather than passing it on, as is seen in the case of on-site isolation or waste removal.

When developing a waste remediation plan, public involvement may be encouraged by government agencies which keep people informed about the process and the information which has been discovered. Members of the public may be asked for comment or may even vote on the options, ensuring that community support for a remediation program is present.

Barrels of hazardous waste waiting to be remediated.
Barrels of hazardous waste waiting to be remediated.

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