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Pacific Southwest, Region 9

Serving: Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Pacific Islands, Tribal Nations

Composting, public transportation

November 2010 Newsletter

A Cleaner Cleanup

EPA is always looking for ways to reduce our environmental footprint and to encourage redevelopment of urban lands, including lands that once were used by waste management facilities.  When waste management facilities are shut down, the equipment must be removed and the land cleaned up before the area is ready for redevelopment.  The removal of equipment and the subsequent cleanup can be a big effort, resulting in used equipment and materials being sent to a landfill and greenhouse gases being emitted from combustion of diesel fuel. 

When the Romic hazardous waste facility in East Palo Alto, California, was shut down and the land redesignated for a new use, EPA and our state partners had an unusual opportunity to reuse tons of industrial equipment and materials and to find a cleanup approach that resulted in a relatively low amount of greenhouse gas emissions. 

At Romic, state and federal project team members directed that the equipment from the facility be reused wherever possible, and recycled when reuse was not possible.  Deconstruction of the facility involved disassembling buildings in such a way that the materials could be reused for new construction.  Deconstruction also involved cleaning tanks, pumps, and other process equipment so that they could be sold to other industrial sites.  At Romic, we succeeded in making old outputs into new inputs. 

Deconstruction and Reuse of Equipment Save Energy

Building deconstruction and reuse of equipment both present a critical opportunity to save the embodied energy of products. Every manufactured product represents a significant investment in energy. Energy was required to at each step of creating the product, including extraction of the raw materials needed, manufacturing of those materials into the building components and equipment, and transporting manufactured products to the hazardous waste site at the time of construction. At deconstruction, the reuse of building materials and equipment results in the maximum possible preservation of embodied energy. With only a minimal expenditure of energy to clean and transport the materials to a new industrial facility, their lifespan (and therefore the original investment of energy to create the products) is extended.

Most of the Romic facility was deconstructed and recycled.

Cleaning up the soil and groundwater at the site offered additional opportunities to save energy and resources, and to minimize emissions of greenhouse gases, resulting in a “greener” cleanup.  At Romic, EPA selected a cleanup option known as “bioremediation.”  This is a treatment approach which allows the groundwater to remain in the subsurface and treats it there.  Bioremediation at Romic will be much less energy and resource intensive than a conventional cleanup such as pumping the groundwater to the surface for treatment.  EPA conducted a “footprint analysis” of cleanup options on the basis of resources consumed, wastes generated, air emissions, and other factors, and determined that in nearly every respect, bioremediation would have a smaller footprint than the conventional pump-and-treat option.

The video shows some of the key steps in the deconstruction at Romic, and shows how and where we will reduce our environmental footprint through the bioremediation cleanup. We expect that Romic will be a model for continuing to reduce our environmental footprint and to encourage redevelopment of urban lands.

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