The Environmental Protect Agency and other federal and state agencies have over twenty-year experience managing the environmental reclamation and site remediation activities at mine and industrial sites. Since this time they have developed, tested and deployed multiple cleanup technologies that have proven successful in the cleaning up of polluted mine and processing sites.
As cleanups continue at different mine sites, the EPA and environmental engineers are continuing to develop additional technologies that are more efficient and effective at cleaning up hazardous locations.
It is important the environmental engineer and the environmental cleanup company have a deep understanding of the technique and type of environmental remediation being used. Some methods are effective at a small scale but will fail when implemented over a large area. While other methods are not effective at all for the type of pollution being cleaned up.
Top Conventional Environmental Remediation Techniques and Soil Treatment Methods
Conventional technologies have been used the longest by environmental engineers and environmental cleanup contractors to perform remediation at mine sites. These technologies have been used on small scale and wide-scale reclamation projects to treat soil pollution across the United States.
With this type of treatment, remedial systems are developed that introduce reagents into the soil or groundwater and modify the organic and inorganic contaminants and convert the pollution into environmentally less damaging forms. One of the most common and widely accepted forms of chemical treatment at mine sites is the use of lime to neutralize acid rock drainage.
Stabilization is changing the contaminants to a less mobile or soluble form thereby making it less hazardous to the environment. For example, stabilization could be used to treat soil pollution found in a sludge slurry by changing the pH of the sludge to make it less mobile. Another form often used for stabilization is the capping of soil pollution. In this case, a clean cap of soil is placed over the polluted soil to protect it from running into streams and rivers.
This process involves making the pollution solid, such as capping or mixing the pollution into a concrete block. The contaminant migration is restricted vastly by decreasing the surface area exposed to leaching or runoff from rain and stormwater.
Decontamination of Buildings
Often when a mine site has finished operations, historical preservation is requested of the buildings. When this occurs, the structures themselves will need to be decontaminated. Decontamination could be as simple as washing the building or as complicated as removing asbestos from the interior walls and ceilings.
Landfill disposal of soil pollution is one of the most common methods of disposal and is an example of encapsulation site remediation. Landfills are designed to accept waste for permanent disposal. Landfills used for site remediation and polluted soil are often designed to be lined to protect against leachate and have specially designed caps to project against stormwater and erosion. Using a landfill for disposal of mine waste can be significant as the site must be maintained and protected for as long as there is an environmental risk.
Environmental Remediation Companies
According to Manta, there are over 3,300 environmental remediation companies located in the United States. One of the main reasons for there being so many companies is site remediation requires a significant amount of local knowledge. The environmental engineer must have an in-depth understanding of the local environmental reclamation requirements, a history of the site, and relationships with federal and local contractors. With this in mind, it is usually better to work with a small environmental engineering business rather than a large national or multinational firm.