Contaminated Site Spring Cleaning – Cost-Effective Remediation

Whether purchasing, selling, or refinancing a property, environmental contamination in soil, groundwater, or even indoor air may seem like a daunting and costly roadblock to achieving your goals. If you are like many individuals who feel “stuck” with a contaminated site, you most likely will have found remediation options to be cost-prohibitive to the extent that they may render your property goals economically unfeasible. However, the good news is that there is almost always a path to create value for your property and fulfil your long-term goals – so long as a carefully thought-out and long-term plan to mitigate contamination is prepared. This article will discuss a broad overview of several potential paths optimized for cost-savings which will bring a contaminated property into compliance and thus increase its property value. 

Path #1: Risk Assessment

As hinted at earlier, remediation to reduce contamination concentrations to below the generic regulated criteria may be extremely expensive and often impractical. Take for example a property with contamination deep within the underlying bedrock, where it is trapped and cannot impact day to day use on the property. To remediate such contamination may take millions of dollars and might not even be effective. Furthermore, due to the nature and depth of the contamination, remediation may not be needed to protect human health or the environment. In this case, a Risk Assessment may be employed for less than a tenth of the cost of remediation to achieve a clean status for the property, often with little to no remediation required.

Path #2: Remediation

In some cases, remediation is actually the more cost effective route to take. Consider a petroleum spill into the soil and groundwater, or legacy chlorinated solvents in soil and groundwater. In the former case, remediation can be quite cheap due to the chemical nature of petroleum, which is very amenable to inexpensive and effective remediation technologies such as bioremediation, in situ chemical oxidation, soil vapour extraction, land farming, and others. In the latter case, contaminants are more recalcitrant, but reasonably priced remediation technologies such as bioremediation, in situ chemical reduction/oxidation, and more are readily applicable to destroy contaminants. Furthermore, in some of these cases, remediation is desired, due to potential impacts on human health.

Path #3: Risk Assessment and Remediation

In many cases, particularly for properties with more complex contamination issues (both from a contaminant chemistry and treatment logistics standpoint), it is the most cost-effective and protective of human health to combine remediation with a risk assessment. This effectively gives the best of both worlds, where human health and the environment is protected, and only a subset of the contaminants are required to be treated or isolated via remedial intervention.

Additional Cost-Saving Measures

Regardless of the path that best suits your property, there are additional cost-saving measures that AEL employs. One of these is on-site testing. One of the biggest time and money wasters during remediation is waiting for laboratory samples. This is specifically true for ex-situ remediation, where soil is excavated and treated in batches prior to being backfilled as clean soil. 

How do you know where and when to stop excavating? Traditional on-site testing is highly uncertain. To have certainty, laboratory samples must be submitted, and as high as a 200% markup may be applied by the laboratory to get analysis results back as quickly as possible. 

To avoid this, AEL has developed high certainty on-site testing, using a combination of traditional and cutting edge on-site testing technologies in their on-site laboratory. Technologies include an ultraviolet fluorescence detector for petroleum-based contamination (PHC), a portable gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer for volatile organic compound contamination (VOC), and an X-ray fluorescence detector for metals and inorganic element contamination. 

Other cost-saving technologies employed by AEL are not so high-tech. Need some inexpensive quick soil samples for post-remediation verification? AEL can employ multiple hand augers up to a depth of 8 feet to get the samples required to satisfy regulatory verification standards, without having to pay for a drill rig to be on site or having to wait for public locates. This strategy was recently utilized by AEL to sample >500 locations as verification samples during a large land-farming remediation project.

Cost Effective Remediation with AEL

At the end of the day, every contaminated property is unique, as are the goals of the owner or prospective owner. Too many properties never reach their full potential due to “cookie-cutter” environmental assessment and remediation approaches, which overvalue environmental investigation and remediation and undervalue the overarching goals for the property. AEL makes the commitment to deeply understand your goals and conceptualize the contamination roadblocks you are facing, helping you plot a long-term path to success while employing unique add-on cost saving strategies. Contact us today to get started.

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