Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Site Remediation Plan

The environmental impact assessment (EIA) will address two types of contamination: first, those materials that need to be removed because of planned construction activities (for instance, because a foundation will be placed in contaminated soil, or waste heaps on the surface need to be cleared for landscaping or structures); and, second, those that need to be removed or remediated in situ due to their environmental impact or their hazard to public health and safety or for the common good. Examples include a contamination plume in the groundwater that could threaten the water supply; highly contaminated materials that lie under proposed foundations to be remediated with microbiological methods; and hazardous substances close to the surface that could pose a hazard through direct human contact or ingestion of dust.

The initial remediation and redevelopment plans are sharpened by performing an EIA. The EIA takes into account the environmental baseline of the site (investigated and characterized during site assessment and investigation). It also analyzes the environmental impact of the planned redevelopment on neighborhood and surrounding jurisdictions. New legislation in most countries is strict about avoiding potential negative impacts on people but is often less clear on how environmental impacts can be mitigated. The technical investigation activities related to an EIA are similar to the initial investigations for the environmental site audit. In fact, much of the information generated at the initial phase may subsequently be used for the EIA. Gaps may need to be closed, for example, due to new aspects of the development concept. However, these could be addressed through supplementary investigations. The information generated can in turn be used to encourage sustainable redevelopment practices.

Remediation Options

Choosing remediation technologies is contingent on availability and cost-effectiveness. Often, in projects with significant contamination, public entities finance much of the environmental investigation and remediation, especially if no other owner can be held responsible. These entities may also cover at least part of the site’s environmental, financial, or legal liabilities. This helps to lower the threshold for private enterprises to take on projects with potential environmental risks.

Financing Remediation
Historical models for contaminated site remediation place the financial burden upon the companies whose operations led to the contamination.6 This so-called “polluter pays” principle, although economically fair, does not take into account the lack of knowledge regarding environmental releases underlying earlier decades of the industrial age (Cordato 2001). In addition, many contaminated sites are products of companies that no longer exist or do not possess the capital to remediate the sites to legal standards. Some of these sites have been transferred to the ownership of a bank or a government entity, whereas others may remain in the ownership of an extant corporation. A site could still be operational, but the presence of contaminants in certain areas may require remediation to ensure compliance with government regulations. A variety of possible ownership and occupancy conditions may exist, and applying the polluter pays principle may not be entirely feasible. In such cases, the surrounding community often suffers from unfavorable economic and environmental conditions. In the absence of a clearly identifiable and financially capable polluter, the burden of financing industrial site remediation typically falls on the public sector.

Government entities frequently prioritize abandoned sites to receive public financing for remediation. Most targeted remediation programs are specific to abandoned industrial sites, and the bulk of resources referenced herein will necessarily be limited to the remediation and redevelopment of vacant contaminated sites. Table below summarizes a variety of financing mechanisms for remediation, providing some examples for further research. The mechanisms presented in this section overlap somewhat with the guidebook’s financing section in chapter 1. However, here the information is limited to remediation financing.

Table: Mechanisms to Finance Site Remediation