Learn About Greener Cleanups
A greener cleanup achieves remedial objectives for a contaminated site while decreasing the environmental footprint of cleanup activities.
On this page:
- Why do we need "greener" cleanups?
- When should steps be taken to achieve a greener cleanup?
- Where should greener cleanups apply?
- What is EPA’s role in greener cleanups?
- EPA points of contact for greener cleanups
An environmental footprint is a qualitative or quantitative estimate of the affects that our activities pose on the environment. 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.
- 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.
- 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 evaluating a cleanup's environmental footprint and taking steps to reduce it.
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.
Greener cleanups help meet goals and objectives of federal sustainability strategies and policies, such as:
- Executive Order 13834 Regarding Efficient Federal Operations, which requires agencies to make the Federal Government’s operations more sustainable. Use of greener cleanup strategies in the US EPA’s Superfund and other site cleanup programs helps meet statutory requirements concerning energy and environmental performance in a manner that increases efficiency, optimizes performance, eliminates unnecessary use of resources, and protects the environment.
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.
- 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.
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 meeting clean energy goals, improving water infrastructure, and preventing solid waste generation.
EPA 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. EPA 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, the Agency continues to develop or refine tools such as technology-specific fact sheets, EPA's footprint evaluation methodology, and interactive Web seminars.
EPA 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:
- Activities of the Interstate Technology and Regulatory Council Green and Sustainable Remediation Team.
- Semi-annual meetings of the Federal Remediation Technologies Roundtable, which initiated this discussion in December 2008.
- An initiative to develop and encourage use of a voluntary, consensus-based standard for greener cleanups.
General information on greener cleanups is available from the following representatives:
- Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation: Carlos Pachon (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Federal Facilities Restoration and Reuse: Ellen Treimel (email@example.com)
- Resource Conservation and Recovery: Sara Rasmussen (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Underground Storage Tanks: Will Anderson (email@example.com)
- Brownfields and Land Revitalization: Patricia Overmeyer (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Site Remediation Enforcement: Elisabeth Freed (email@example.com)