Environmental Site Remediation Techniques And Solutions

Luckily, I have never had to undertake an environmental site remediation program on any of the commercial properties (or residential for that matter) that I own or have owned. Although I did come close once.

If you are interested in commercial real estate site remediation it is likely for one of two reasons:

  • You own a piece of commercial real estate that you know is contaminated (examples of contamination could be petroleum hydrocarbons, radon, asbestos, lead paint, mold, or simply the presence of an old underground storage tank)
  • You are considering purchasing a property that is, or is potentially contaminated.

One of the most common types of "contamination" of a commercial real estate property that would require an environmental site remediation is the presence of a UST or underground storage tank as mentioned above. If a UST is discovered during a phase I assessment, a phase II assessment will likely be ordered to determine, among other things, whether or not any of the surrounding soil or groundwater has been contaminated through leakage of the tank. If petroleum hydrocarbons have leaked from the tank, then a soil remediation and/or a groundwater remediation will need to be performed. Some of the various techniques for this are described below.

If the tank has not leaked, the UST will either be removed and disposed of, or filled in with concrete or sand. This process of dealing with an old UST is often called UST closure.

Environmental contamination can exist in the improvements on the property (buildings etc.) as well as the land itself (and/or groundwater). What we will focus on here is environmental site remediation with respect to the land. My goal is to provide you with "an overview" of "some" of the methods that may be employed to accomplish an environmental remediation, including both groundwater remediation as well as soil remediation.

Up until the 1990's, the main technique for remediating contaminated soil was to excavate it and haul it to a regulated landfill. The groundwater on the site was then monitored over a period of time to ensure that all if the contaminants had been removed.

But since the 1990's (and with the ever increasing focus on property contamination) a number of newer technologies and methods have become available. Here is a sampling of environmental site remediation techniques that are currently available.

Excavating The Soil And Disposing Of It

This is a fairly straight-forward process and, as mentioned, was the most common type of site remediation right through to the 90's. Following excavation and removal, the site is typically monitored going forward to ensure that the process was effective. In my report entitled "Environmental Site Assessment Case Study: A Tale Of Two Phase I ESA's" I talk about a neighboring site to a commercial real estate property that I owned, that had been contaminated by a leaking UST and subsequently remediated using the excavation and disposal method. It is an interesting look at the environmental site assessment and remediation process and covers phase I, phase II and environmental site remediation. I include photos and excerpts from actual site assessment reports as well. If you would like a copy, simply fill in the form below and I will send you a copy you can download.

Environmental Site Assessment Case Study

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Pumping Out And Treating The Groundwater

In the case of hydrocarbon contamination, the water is pumped (using a sump pump or the like) from the ground and then filtered using a carbon filter. Depending on the type of soil, this may or may not solve the problem as the contaminants may not flow freely from the soil.

Soil Vapor Extraction

Called SVE for short, this system is used to extract hydrocarbon vapors from soil. A form of this environmental site remediation technique was used on the commercial property that I talk about in my Environmental Site Assessment Case Study. In the report there is a picture of a SVE process applied to a remediated site.

In Situ Chemical Oxidation

In situ simply means that the soil is treated where it is and not excavated and removed from the property. Strong oxidants (such as hydrogen peroxide) are pumped into the ground, which then react with the contaminants to "oxidize" them. This is a popular technique, but can be limited in its success depending on the makeup of the soil.

This is certainly not a comprehensive list of environmental site remediation techniques, but should provide you with an overview of some of your commercial real estate remediation options. Again, feel free to download my environmental assessment report (using the above form) to get a "real life" look into environmental site assessments and remediation.

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