Environmental project management is more important than ever in Australia. It’s a sad fact that due to past neglect or error, or through spills and accidents of various kinds, many sites across the country are now unusable and indeed pose an environmental danger to local residents as well as flora and fauna.
Fortunately, expert environmental management and solid site remediation can transform these blighted areas or neglected sites into useful units that pose no threat and offer real value to homeowners, local councils, investors and industry. From commercial ventures to parks or other green spaces, these revitalised sites can bring life back to your local area.
Examples of sites ripe for remediation are areas affected by natural disasters such as flood water contamination or subsidence, while a common man-made reason in Australia is asbestos contamination resulting from demolishing older buildings. Other examples include bio-hazards such as various pathological waste from hospitals, sewage and mould, and chemical run-off from factories and other sources.
The existence of such sites is undesirable for many reasons. In some cases, valuable properties or areas lie vacant when they could be developed to provide value to the community. In other cases, they can be eyesores that can drag down the value and desirability of an area, or they can be so contaminated as to drive people away.
Site remediation is a complex and demanding task that requires the services of a qualified and experienced environmental consultant team. The stakes are high as contaminated sites are a blight on the landscape as well as being a public danger. Fortunately, there’s a solution in the form of site remediation.
What Exactly is Site Remediation?
Also known as site rehabilitation, site remediation is one type of environmental project management. It comprises a systematic process to detect, assess and finally eliminate contamination from sites that have been polluted. That way they can either be developed to extract their value as residential or commercial premises, parks or other open spaces, or at the least, have any contamination neutralised to render them harmless to the environment.
Affected areas ripe for remediation can include soil, groundwater, surface water, sediment and those containing various kinds of debris such as hazardous asbestos from building demolitions. Other serious remediation activities involve dealing with oil spills either from damaged refineries or pipelines at sea or on various waterways.
Locations requiring site rehabilitation can range from residential sites such as homes and apartment buildings with serious asbestos issues to extensive quarries or mines, or industrial sites such as factories that discharged hazardous waste into the surrounding environment or weren’t properly cleaned up when they ceased operations. Through the use of rigorous site assessment and sophisticated project management, specialists can develop environmental management plans that reclaim these areas either as commercial ventures or green areas that offer no threat.
Other than for removing a blot on the landscape or making sensible economic use of otherwise waste land, site remediation is required for a range of other reasons. These range from due diligence assessments required by buyers or sellers, preliminary site investigations, feasibility studies, health and ecological risk assessments and for various regulatory purposes.
Often firms invite litigation or fines from local authorities for neglecting to take proper care of contaminated sites. Authorities can also withhold or withdraw building or development permits from site owners until they take care of environmental issues. This can also happen if locals lodge nuisance complaints.
This kind of environmental project management is also a key preliminary step in demolition projects. In such cases, it’s wise to examine the ecological status and clean up contamination at a site before starting work to dismantle it. Otherwise, the demolition process could result in the release of toxic waste which could be hazardous to both workers and residents in the area.
Site rehabilitation is a challenging task and one that demands a specific knowledge and skill set along with excellent logistical abilities. Plus owing to environmental implications, it’s also vitally important to the future of the area in which it’s being carried out. To ensure success, effective project management is a must along with a thorough understanding of engineering, chemistry and physical sciences.
To help you understand how site remediation specialists embark on a new project, here’s a look at four steps that they follow to ensure fast, efficient and comprehensive results and ultimately the kind of site remediation success that benefits all stakeholders. Please be aware this is just a rough outline and specific projects may be carried out in a different order or by adding extra steps depending on what is necessary.
Along with assessment, strategy formulation, planning and the actual remediation process, one key component of site remediation includes ongoing monitoring and various follow-up measures to ensure the site remains safe and compliant.
1. Assess the Site
To solve any problem, you need to know exactly what you’re dealing with, so the first step in any site remediation process is to assess the site and determine its existing state. This is a rigorous, in-depth contaminated land survey involving gathering detailed information about the site including its history, geology and hydrogeology.
Information gathering tasks will include identifying data gaps to ensure complete knowledge and may involve aerial photography or satellite imagery to get a big picture of the area where work is occurring.
Along with physical assessment of the site itself, other key areas that have to be examined are the legal implications, both regional and federal. The process also includes an ongoing synthesis and correlation of all the data in order to provide a comprehensive overview with maximum detail.
Once all relevant data has been compiled, skilled analysts can begin to formulate preliminary environmental management plans, which can be used as a basis to get started on the environmental project management tasks.
2. Categorise and Strategise
Following site assessments, the next step is to categorise the collected information and begin to strategise a course of action that will bring the desired results. Any strategy will delineate actions for immediate, short-term and long-term measures to ensure all eventualities are covered. This is an ongoing process, and any strategy can be tweaked as feedback is received or new information presents itself.
Depending on the nature and scope of the project, this phase could involve interviewing everyone with a stake in the project including owners, representatives of local or federal government, various experts, people living in the area and so on. Plus, on a physical level, depending on the kind of site being handled, this could involve creating monitoring wells to measure the volumes of various contaminants and factors such as the flow of groundwater.
Once adequate data has been gathered, the rehab team can develop an estimate of time and budget required for the entire project.
3. Document and Develop
Rigorous documentation is a cornerstone of proper project management allowing all parties to have a clear understanding of the whole project. It also creates a solid record for any future disputes or questions.
As well as helping ensure public safety, these documents allow stakeholders such as landlords, investors and tenants make informed business decisions with a clear understanding of all the issues involved. Clear documentation also serves as vital evidence should any queries or investigations occur and provides a permanent record of the entire site rehabilitation project.
4. Remediate, Mitigate, and Monitor
Finally, we come to the actual work of remediation and mitigation. This is by far the most resource and time intensive part of the operation and also includes post-project monitoring for factors such as the presence of contaminants. Such monitoring is also essential to measure various factors like weather changes. Heavy rains, or extensive dry spells, for example, could alter the balance or release hidden contaminants.
Once the site has been mitigated and remediated, the owner can now plan redevelopment. However, no action can be taken until any legal or liability issues are completely resolved. One this is done, workers can begin on tasks such as reinstatement of services or landscaping depending on the type of site involved.
Bonus – Bring in the Professionals in Environmental Management
Site remediation is a challenging task that demands experience, expertise and a thorough professionalism in application. It’s a task that can have profound environmental and legal implications. For this reason, you should only entrust the task to firms with verifiable qualifications and a proven track record.
Entering a contaminated area is extremely dangerous for anyone without extensive training or proper equipment. For example, asbestos can cause serious health problems in the future, flood waters can carry anything from dangerous bacteria to corrosive chemicals or pesticides, and mould can have adverse effects on children and the elderly.
For professional site remediation services and environmental project management in Perth and beyond, contact Site Environmental & Remediation Services Pty Ltd (SERS). We’ll work with you to ensure successful site remediation on a variety of problems. We offer extensive experience, technical expertise and specialized equipment and facilities needed to handle all kinds of site clean-up and remediation tasks including those involving asbestos, dust, soil, water, gas and air.