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Superfund

Superfund Green Remediation

Recent Release

In the Superfund program, green remediation is the practice of considering all environmental effects of remedy implementation and incorporating options to minimize the environmental footprints of cleanup actions.

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Making Each Superfund Cleanup "Greener"

Green remediation strategies can help minimize the environmental footprint of cleaning up Superfund sites and ensure protective remedies within the Superfund statutory and regulatory framework, as established by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan.

There are opportunities to decrease the footprint and maximize the environmental outcome of a cleanup throughout the life of a project, from site investigations through development of cleanup alternatives and remedy design, construction, operation and monitoring. The strategies aim to reduce total energy use and increase the percentage of energy from renewable resources; reduce air pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions; reduce water use and preserve water quality; conserve material resources and reduce waste; and protect land and ecosystem services. Making the most of these opportunities to reduce the environmental footprint, particularly those leading to lower greenhouse gas emissions, is integral to ongoing efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change at Superfund sites.

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Developing a Plan for Greener Superfund Cleanups Across the Nation

EPA’s September 2010 Superfund Green Remediation Strategy (PDF) sets out current plans to reduce the demand placed on the environment during cleanup actions and to conserve natural resources. Through 40 specific action items aligned with nine key actions, the strategy applies EPA's Principles for Greener Cleanups to the Superfund program. Many of the strategic actions can be addressed through policy and guidance development, resource development, and a series of near-term initiatives:

  • Maximize use of renewable energy with a goal of using 100 percent renewable energy to power site operations and identify methods for increasing energy efficiency.
  • Incorporate green remediation factors as part of remedy optimization evaluations.
  • Pursue ways to reduce the use of natural resources and energy during remedial actions and when developing cleanup alternatives.
  • Integrate clean, renewable and innovative energy sources and advanced diesel technologies (such as diesel particulate filters and alternative fuels) and encourage operational practices (such as engine idle reduction practices) to minimize total emissions.
  • Establish tools to track and increase potable water conservation, the reuse of treated water, and recharge of aquifers.
  • Identify additional on-site or off-site uses of materials or energy otherwise considered waste.
  • Include language in statements of work for removal action, remedial design and remedial action procurement contracts that specifies use of green remediation practices and requires separate reports for energy/fuel usage and costs.
  • Help communities establish networks and training programs that enable local workers (including minority and low-income populations) to gain proficiency in expertise needed for green cleanups, such as energy efficiency auditing and renewable energy applications.

The Superfund Green Remediation Strategy reflects extensive public comment as well as refined EPA policy. As the field of green remediation matures, EPA is compiling examples of products generated through completed strategic actions such as:

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Evaluating Greener Cleanup Activities throughout the CERCLA Process

In August 2016, EPA issued a guidance memorandum recommending approaches for regional Superfund programs to consider when evaluating greener cleanup activities through the CERCLA process.  The guidance also encourages regions to consider conducting an environmental footprint analysis to help identify best practices that may help minimize the footprint on a site-specific basis.  Relevant parts of the CERCLA process include site characterization; remedial investigation and feasibility study or engineering evaluation/cost analysis; development of decision documents; and enforcement mechanisms.  

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Options for a Greener Cleanup: Applying an Industry Standard

Superfund stakeholders partnered with others in the site cleanup community to develop a voluntary, consensus-based standard for greener cleanups. ASTM International issued the resulting Standard Guide for Greener Cleanups in November 2013. In a subsequent memorandum, EPA recognized the standard as a tool that, when implemented appropriately, can reduce the environmental footprint of cleanup activities while still meeting site-specific regulatory requirements and objectives. EPA participation in development of this standard is a strategic action (#3.7) of the Agency's Superfund Green Remediation Strategy.

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Best Management Practices (BMPs)

EPA's series of quick-reference fact sheets describe practices for frequently used remedies, various field stages and other aspects posing significant opportunities to reduce the environmental footprint of cleanups. Development of this series is a strategic action (#2.3) of the Agency's Superfund Green Remediation Strategy.

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Footprint Analysis for Environmental Cleanups

This EPA document provides specific metrics and a detailed process to quantify the environmental footprint of a cleanup. Information gained by applying the methodology can be used to target best management practices that help achieve greener cleanups. Development of this methodology is a strategic action (#8.2) in the Agency's Superfund Green Remediation Strategy.

If you have questions about EPA's Superfund Green Remediation Strategy or associated activities and products, please see below.

  • Superfund Green Remediation Coordinators: For regional and site-specific information about green remediation strategies, please contact the Superfund Green Remediation Coordinators in each EPA Region.

For more information, please contact Carlos Pachon (pachon.carlos@epa.gov) in EPA’s Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation.

To learn more about green remediation, view the Green Remediation Focus website.

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