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Greener Cleanups

Basic Information

Green Remediation Focus

Visit EPA’s Green Remediation Focus Exit EPA Disclaimer on the
CLU-IN website to find:

  • Monthly news announcements
  • Best management practices
  • Site-specific profiles
  • A contracting and administrative toolkit

A greener cleanup achieves remedial objectives for a contaminated site while decreasing the environmental footprint of cleanup activities. Assessment of the environmental footprint should consider five core elements:

  • Total energy use and renewable energy use
  • Air and atmospheric pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions
  • Water use and impacts to water resources
  • Materials management and waste reduction, and
  • Land management and ecosystem services.

All cleanup approaches, and all stages of the cleanup process, can be optimized to enhance the environmental outcome of a cleanup project; green cleanups involve more than merely adopting a specific technology or technique. Examples of the best management practices (BMPs) to achieve a greener cleanup include:

  • Installing onsite renewable energy systems to meet all or a portion of the project's electricity demand
  • Equipping field machinery with clean-emission technology for exhaust systems
  • Using a closed-loop (re-circulating) system to treat groundwater
  • Choosing materials with recycled content, and
  • Installing soil berms around low-lying work areas to prevent soil erosion caused by stormwater runoff.

To help stakeholders find the best options, EPA has developed a methodology for quantitatively and qualitatively evaluating a cleanup's environmental footprint and taking steps to reduce it.

Why do we need "greener" cleanups?

Activities involved with cleaning up contaminated sites expend energy, water, and other natural or materials resources. As a result, a cleanup project creates an environmental footprint of its own. Greener cleanups that are environmentally more protective can be achieved by optimizing the performance of cleanup technologies and field work, increasing our understanding of the environmental footprints of cleanup projects, and taking steps to minimize those footprints and maximize environmental outcomes.

When should steps be taken to achieve a greener cleanup?

Greener cleanup strategies can be used during any phase of work, including:

  • Emergency response
  • Site investigation
  • Evaluation of cleanup options
  • Design, construction, and operation of a remedial project
  • Long-term monitoring of a remedy, and
  • Site reuse planning.

The strategies can be incorporated early during the project planning process, to maximize efficiencies and leverage resources throughout the life of a cleanup. Steps to achieve a greener cleanup also can be taken in existing projects; for example, significant opportunities are available when executing new or modified cleanup contracts or task orders and during project optimization steps such as remedial system evaluations.

Where should greener cleanups apply?

BMPs for greener cleanups can be used at contaminated sites undergoing emergency response and short- or long-term remediation under any cleanup program, including those pertaining to Superfund, RCRA, brownfields, federal facilities, and voluntary actions under state programs. Some states also require specific BMPs for greener cleanups under other initiatives, such as using clean fuel technologies for projects funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act or integrating renewable energy sources to help states build renewable energy portfolios.

What is EPA’s role in greener cleanups?

EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (OSWER) issued the Principles for Greener Cleanups to improve the decision-making process for cleanup activities in a way that ensures protection of human health and the environment. OSWER program offices are working with the Agency's regional offices to assure that cleanups and their environmental footprint reductions occur in a manner that is consistent with governing statutes and regulations and without compromising cleanup objectives, community interests, reasonableness of cleanup timeframes, or protectiveness of cleanup actions. To inform the decision-making process, OSWER continues to develop or refine tools such as technology-specific fact sheets, EPA's footprint evaluation methodology, and interactive Web seminars.

OSWER also coordinates with other government agencies and commercial organizations involved in site cleanup to facilitate widespread implementation of the Principles for Greener Cleanups through venues such as:

OSWER Program Office Representatives:

General information on greener cleanups is available from the following representatives of OSWER program offices:

  • Superfund Technology and Innovation: Carlos Pachon (pachon.carlos@epa.gov)
  • Federal Facilities Restoration and Reuse: Ellen Treimel (treimel.ellen@epa.gov)
  • Resource Conservation and Recovery: Sara Rasmussen (rasmussen.sara@epa.gov)
  • Underground Storage Tanks: Robin Parker (parker.robin@epa.gov)
  • Brownfields and Land Revitalization: Patricia Overmeyer (overmeyer.patricia@epa.gov)
  • Center for Program Analysis: Marc Thomas (thomas.marc@epa.gov)
  • Site Remediation Enforcement: Elisabeth Freed (freed.elisabeth@epa.gov)

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