Cleaning Up: The Second Decade

by Joel S. Hirschhorn, Pres.; EnviroSearch-East, Washington, DC,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1990, Vol. 60, Issue 10, Pg. 66-68

Document Type: Feature article


Endless media coverage and a high level of public anxiety make it seem as though the U.S. has been attempting to clean toxic waste sites for decades. In fact, the 1980s were our first try. In the '90s, better technology and better management will give engineers and scientists the tools for better cleanups. Various sources place the cleanup costs of contaminated land, water and structures between $500 billion and $1 trillion over the next 50 years. The problems we face in the second decade go well beyond the listed Superfund sites. There are structures and soils contaminated with lead, municipal landfills with toxic leachate, buildings lined with asbestos, underground storage tanks that leak, marine sediment and sites laden with PCBs, mine tailings, pesticides and agricultural runoff, and thousands of active industrial facilities permitted under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act that must be cleaned under its corrective action program. The next decade should bring a permanent national cleanup infrastructure into play. One that stresses research and development for improved technologies, creates a national information system, and restructures government and engineering firm involvement.

Subject Headings: Soil pollution | Toxicity | Water pollution | Underground structures | Underground storage | Storage tanks | Sediment | Industrial facilities

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