Is It Mitigation? Abatement? Remediation? Cleanup?

Apr 8, 2021

Environmental Enlightenment #322

Commercial real estate transactions live or die by these words; we find them floating around a bit too loosely and are reminded of old Proverbs 18:21, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.”

When you clean something, you strive to remove elements that are deemed to not belong there. “Up” is an intensifier. Thus, when a home is undergoing cleanup, it is being cleaned to a high degree.

“Cleanup” connotates absolute. In our environmental sector, we clean up spills; and this is limited to such spills that can be scrubbed away from surfaces or dug up readily and removed. We do not clean up deeply buried contaminated soil or groundwater. It Is not practicable, mostly impossible. In the latter cases, we remediate.

Remediation is the action of remedying something, in particular of reversing or stopping environmental damage. When we remediate, we restore by reversing or stopping environmental damage. (Oxford Languages).

Remediation always leaves some contamination behind. Soil Vapor Extraction is an example. We pull out the vapor to the point where the environmental impact does not pose threat to public health or the environment and leave it to Mother Nature to do the rest.


Federal Remediation Technologies Roundtable

In Situ Chemical Oxidation (ISCO) is another example. It uses chemicals called “oxidants” to help change harmful contaminants into less toxic ones. It is conducted in place, without having to excavate soil or pump out groundwater for above-ground cleanup.

Remediation takes long time, years, sometimes decades, mostly done under oversight of regulatory agencies, and terribly expensive in many cases. Where remediation is the only foreseeable solution, lenders usually do not lend, and real estate transaction goes by the board.

Mitigation is the action of making make less severe, serious, or painful.

Abatement is making smaller or less intense.

These two terms are used synonymously in the environmental protection arena.

A widespread example of mitigation is in the intrusion of methane gas into buildings. Methane producing geological formations are widespread in southern California and this does not stop development. The solution is mitigation: structural elements block methane from entering the building and vent it to the atmosphere.

Source: Los Angeles County Public Works

We use similar concepts in mitigating the intrusion of hazardous vapors into buildings.

Mitigation is more practical, more feasible and much more economical than remediation and we strive to make it the solution of the day for properties that are impacted with hazardous soil vapors.


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