Within the EU, there are many brownfields with polluted soil, water or air. A significant number of these brownfields have a central location and are connected to the transport system. Green Remediation is a solution which remediates these brownfields and enables the use of these areas. The main benefits of applying this model are:
1) Prevention of new developments on greenfields
2) Improvement of human health and environmental conditions.
The idea behind this green remediation is that not only pollution is minimised or eliminated, but also the efficient use of resources and impacts of restoration techniques are reduced. The essential point is that the polluted soil or groundwater is decontaminated on-site, eliminating the need for removal and transport off-site. Additionally, energy can be generated locally, allowing savings in power consumption. Also, old infrastructure can be reused or recycled.
An advantage of investing in site remediation is that many of these brownfields have a central location and a close connection to the transport system. After the remediation, another possibility is that the site could be sold or be used to construct buildings and houses. Additional incentives are government programs and funding as well as the monetary compensation from the polluter.
Polluter pays principle: Whoever causes an environmental damage through their activities is financially liable for its remediation. (Directive 2004/35/EC, 2004)
There are three types of brownfields accordingly to the CABERNET (Concerted Action on Brownfield and Economic Regeneration) Network: Type A, Type B, and Type C. Type A are areas in which the land price is higher than the remediation costs. Private actors usually carry out these projects. Type B includes areas in which the property value is similar to the remediation costs. Therefore, the participation of the state is required to make projects viable. Type C are all the zones in which remediation costs are higher than the property value after the remediation. Public actors implement projects in these sites.
(NICOLE Brownfield Working Group, 2011)
Example USA, Monterey Park
- Cleanup Objectives: Remediate soil and water contaminated by a 145-acre inactive landfill
- Green Remediation Strategy: Convert landfill gas to electric power for onsite use
Within the project, six 70-kW microturbines were installed in 2002 as part of the landfill gas collection system. These microturbines are able to convert a flow rate of 5,500 standard cubic feet per minute. The system returns microturbine emissions to the existing gas treatment system to ensure contaminant removal. The system generates sufficient energy to meet approximately 70% of on-site needs including thermal oxidation, a 40-horsepower gas blower, refrigeration units, and air-exchange systems. The implementation saves up to $400,000 each year in grid-supplied electricity expenses. (U.S. EPA/OSWER, 2007)
Government expenditures are a relevant part of the funds for the management of contaminated sites. Depending on the country, its relation to costs for private actors varies. For example, 90% of funds for this activity in Estonia come from the government, while in contrast in Belgium government funds account for only 25%. Considering the countries on the graph, an average of 42% of the total expenditure for contaminated sites management comes from public funds.
Additionally, seventeen European countries have funding mechanisms for “orphan” polluted sites. Orphan polluted sites are sites with no party responsible for the remediation. These countries are Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
(European Environment Agency, 2014)
According to the European Environment Agency, it is estimated that Europe has 2.5 million potentially contaminated sites, and from those, about 14% (34,0000 sites) are highly likely to be contaminated. (European Environment Agency, 2014). Estimations might vary because of federal definitions of brownfield and contaminated sites, and based on the availability of national statistics.
As this is a current problem for all European countries, most countries have regulations regarding soil management and remediation. In the following table, national policies and targets are presented for some European countries.
Link to full table (on the bottom of the site)