Any technique that remediates or manages the risk of contamination at a site has an environmental benefit as it eliminates or reduces exposure to contaminants. Some techniques, however, are more sustainable than others. You can make a technique more sustainable by applying it in a way that conserves energy, fuel or water; reduces GHGs or other emissions; or minimizes or recycles waste.

The guiding principles for sustainable site remediation and risk management are:

  • Treat as much soil as possible on-site and preferably in-situ.
  • Use techniques that are energy-efficient, produce minimal chemical and greenhouse gas emissions and incorporate renewable energy.
  • Minimize water use and recycle water whenever and wherever possible.

Relative sustainability of contamination management options

The techniques in this table are listed from most to least sustainable.

Contamination management technique

Description Sustainability factors
Risk management approaches

Risk management approaches reduce exposure to contamination through:

  • administrative controls, such as restricting the use of or access to the site through zoning
  • physical barriers, such as ground covers (e.g. asphalt) to prevent exposure to contaminants or in-situ barriers to contain contaminated groundwater

A detailed risk assessment is required to show that a risk management approach will provide the same protection to human health and the environment as remediation.

Compared to remediation, risk management approaches typically:

  • use less energy
  • create less waste
  • generate fewer emissions

These approaches can be the most sustainable method of managing contamination.

Remediation approaches - in situ

Because in-situ remediation techniques are applied in the ground, there is no need to excavate soil or pump groundwater.

Common in-situ techniques include bioremediation, vapour extraction and chemical oxidation.

Compared to remediation techniques that require soil excavation or groundwater pumping, in-situ remediation techniques typically:

  • use less energy
  • create less waste
  • generate fewer emissions

If you choose an in-situ technique, you can use specific sustainable approaches to reduce the environmental impact.

Remediation approaches - ex-situ

Ex-situ remediation techniques involve either or both of these options:

  • Pumping groundwater from the ground and treating it above ground.
  • Excavating contaminated soil and either treating it on site or sending it off site for treatment or disposal.

If you determine that an ex-situ technique is most feasible, you can use specific sustainable approaches to reduce the environmental impact.

Want to know more?

See these resources on sustainable remediation and risk management techniques:

Did you find this page helpful?
Please offer suggestions that will improve the learning center for you: