February 13

No Need to Close Your Doors to Cleanup Contamination


Is your consultant listening? As consultants, we evaluate cleanup strategies based on the contaminant, site conditions, and their cost effectiveness. But what about what works for you? Has your consultant asked about your business operations and what cleanup approach works for you? Your interests need to be part of the cleanup plan. For example, many of you have heard the distressing stories of a dry-cleaner taking heavy financial losses because the environmental cleanup required the business to shut down. It’s bad enough to shut a business down at all, but I’ve stories where businesses were shut down for several weeks or more. As you know, once a customer finds another cleaner, getting them back typically doesn’t happen. However, this does not have to be the case. Businesses can maintain operations while having their environmental remediation needs addressed. 


Many invasive remedial technologies proposed to cleanup a source area or contaminant plume concentrate heavily on the most efficient approach to remove the contaminants. Often, they do not incorporate business needs of the building occupant into the remedial implementation plan, which leads to a financial hardship for the business owner. Invasive remedial technologies such as excavation, thermal extraction, soil vapor extraction (SVE), air-sparging, ozone-sparging, multi-phase extraction, and other remedial systems with above grade components can be very effective in meeting remedial objectives but may not be appropriate to meet your business needs. A good environmental consultant will incorporate your businesses operational needs into the remedial plan and work with you to identify an approach that is non-invasive, or at least minimally invasive so business operations can continue with minimal disruption.  

In a typical invasive event to install SVE and sparge wells, a drilling rig needs to access your interior space. These drilling rigs take up a lot of your business operational surface area and typically requires the equipment pertinent to your business to be moved or removed from the building entirely. This approach can require numerous well points to be installed since the effective radius of influence is centered on each point. Each of those points must be piped to the system trailer. These above ground pipes can take up more surface space and interferes with your business operations after the installation is done.  


Business friendly, non-invasive remedial technologies can alleviate the stress to your business, your staff, and yourself. These approaches can include some of the same technologies identified above, implemented in a way that does not interfere with your operations. A common and effective non-invasive approach is to use horizontal drilling techniques to install the SVE and air-sparge system components. The horizontal drill rig sets up access points outside the building, and space permitting, at a distance from the building to not interfere with your customer traffic. A horizontal drill rig can bore multiple lines from the same access point. These lines can be horizontally and vertically distributed to optimize well placement. Additionally, horizontal wells can have a greater area of influence from just one well screen installed along the target zone than the traditional vertical well method. Standard vertical well installation requires multiple well locations in a line to influence the same area as one horizontal well. The use of horizontal drilling methods can allow the business to stay in operation throughout the remedial system installation event. Additionally, there will be no encumbering piping components inside the building during remedial system operation.  

There are also minimally invasive remedial techniques that can be implemented to reduce the impact to business operations. Conducting remedial action through chemical and/or microbial injections can limit the time needed to access your business operational space. In comparison to an excavation event that can take a week to months and required significant if not complete access to your business space, an injection event can be completed in a couple days. It is possible to use small hand-cart size rigs that can maneuver around your business equipment limiting the need to stop business operation. The injection approach uses specifically designed mixtures to treat the impacts below your business operations. To reduce the chance of subsequent injections events, your environmental consultant can work with suppliers to careful design and tailor these chemical and microbial mixtures to meet site-specific conditions, which can increase the remedial rate and success of remedial actions at your property, reducing the chance for follow up events.  

Limited trenching is also a minimally invasive approach in comparison to others. Instead of trying to remove the contaminants via excavation or injections with a high density of locations, the installation of perforated pipes in the subsurface for an SVE or vapor mitigation system along accessible paths within your building could be sufficient to remediate the contaminant mass. An appropriate design could be installed in a short timeframe and allow for continued business operations during installation. Simple actions such as placing plywood over open trenches until the piping and backfill can be placed and the floor resealed will allow your business to continue operations through the installation.  

As with everything, cost is king. That is no different with environmental remediation and alternative remedial approaches. Therefore, a cost benefit analysis is a critical part of the assessment process. For example, horizontal drilling is much more costly per foot than conventional drilling. However, the cheaper cost of a conventional drilling approach compounded by the loss of revenue may be significantly more than selecting the expensive horizontal drilling operation that allows you to keep your business doors open during installation.  

Learn how to be a good neighbor during an environmental cleanup on a drycleaning property.

There are many different approaches to implement a business-friendly remedial action, those reviewed above are just a few. Your consultant should bend over backwards to minimize business interruption. Whether that requires working at night or over the weekends when your operations are closed or using hand equipment instead of mechanical drills and machinery, there is almost always a workaround. Your environmental consultant should listen to you and be able to provide you a comparison summary of different remedial approaches, the rough costs for each approach, anticipated timelines, and potential business interruptions for each approach, if any. In the end, there is no one answer that solves the “best approach” concern, but with the right environmental consultant by your side, you should be able to find the least restrictive approach that allows the remedial objectives to be met and keeps you financially stable with minimal business disruptions.  

Every project is different, every property owner has unique concerns and needs, and these environmental demands that interfere with your business are not fun or what you want. We are here to help make your environmental cleanup event as easy as possible.  Contact us to learn more on how we can help you address your environmental risks in a business-friendly approach.  

As seen in Cleaner & Launderer

Author: R. Scott Powell, PE, LPG, Regional Director 

R. Scott Powell has 20+ years of environmental consulting experience. Powell’s expertise covers a wide variety of projects ranging from due diligence, site investigations, assessment of appropriate remedial technologies, to remedial system installation, operations, and maintenance. Powell’s experience includes sites with co-mingled contaminant plumes, chlorinated solvents, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), petroleum, metals, asbestos, lead based paint, and various other hazardous materials. He manages complex relationships and fosters cohesive involvement of responsible parties and regulatory agencies. Powell manages negotiations with state and federal regulatory agencies and provides litigation support in matters concerning environmental issues.