Greening-up Cleanups

Constructed wetlands to manage stormwater at a RCRA corrective action site

Constructed wetlands to manage stormwater at a RCRA corrective action site

by Deborah Goldblum

Just for a moment, imagine a contaminated piece of property.  There may be contaminated soil, groundwater, or waste on the site; perhaps a building needs to be demolished.  There may be nearby businesses and perhaps an adjacent stream.  Now think of the activity that goes into cleaning up that site: trucks moving about, portable generators, power needed for a treatment system, vegetation that needs clearing for site access.  The clean-up of a contaminated site has an environmental footprint of its own!

How can that footprint be minimized?   EPA worked with a broad range of stakeholders through ASTM International to develop a Standard Guide for Greener Cleanups (E2893) that reflects EPA’s Greener Cleanup Principles, including the goal of minimizing water use and impacts to water resources.  While the standard is not required, EPA encourages its use at cleanup sites, and the standard is becoming more widely used by cleanup professionals.

Just recently, ASTM International issued an updated version of the standard to make it more user friendly.  While the process is the same, language was refined and the associated table of best management practices (BMPs) was streamlined.

Let’s go back to that contaminated site once again.  This time, rainwater is captured on-site and used for dust control.  Equipment is cleaned using phosphate-free detergents to protect the nearby stream.  Native plants are used in site restoration to provide habitat and protect waterways.  Porous pavement is used to reduce runoff from the site.  The ASTM Guide has over two dozen BMPs that protect water resources and over 100 BMPs in all.

Want to learn more about greener cleanups? Check out EPA’s website for more information, including a recent webinar on the standard.


About the author:  Deb has worked in EPA’s Mid-Atlantic regional Resource Conservation and Recovery Act Program for 24 years and currently serves as the region’s Sustainability Coordinator.  Deb has spearheaded numerous efforts, including initiating and leading the cross-program workgroup, which led to ASTM’s International’s Standard Guide for Greener Cleanups.


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