In my previous article, Site Remediation: Part 1- The Basics, I provided an overview of approaches for remediation of contaminated site.
In this second article, I focus on the issue that is central to all remediation projects:
The boiler plate answer we as consultants inevitably give when our clients ask how much it would cost to clean up the site is, in short, “it depends” – it depends on the extent of the contamination, it depends on the site-specific risks,it depends on the regulatory clean-up requirements , etc. So, we often need more information before we can come up with a realistic cost estimate. That is of course not the answer a business wants to hear – for internal planning purposes, there is often a need for some idea of timelines and clean-up costs long before work starts at the site.
Estimates of remediation costs are not easy to come by, and are not something that one can readily find by searching the internet. This is not unexpected due to the complexities and differences among sites, the wide variety of remediation approaches, differences in requirements among regulators, the confidential nature of this work, and the general opacity of consultants and contractors pricing.
We at Redlog and the Inogen Alliance strive for transparency.
The information presented below is based on my direct experience with Redlog, which includes carrying out these types of studies over the last thirty years at many sites in Canada, South-East Asia, and the Middle East, and input from colleagues within the Inogen Alliance across Europe, UK and the US from our global Remediation Working Group. We believe this information will be useful to those who are looking for preliminary and “ballpark” estimates for timelines and site cleanup costs.
Of course, it goes without saying that all of the following estimates of remediation costs are, by necessity, greatly simplified to provide examples of our more common remediation projects, but those values can easily vary an order of magnitude depending on the specifics of any site. So in short – this is to be used more as a starting point for framing costs.
Preliminary Remediation Costs and Timelines
As discussed in the previous article in the series, remediation projects are generally executed in a phased manner. The first stage – the preliminary works – are done prior to site works. In the best case, they can be completed in weeks, but more typically will require 1-2 months, and in large and complex situations much longer than that.
Costs associated with preparing these various reports are given in the following table for a “generic” and “medium-sized” site, but the typical costs range from $5,000 for a smaller site to $50,000 and more for a large and complex site. Most of these initial costs are typically associated with field sampling and laboratory analysis as needed to characterize the site and delineate the probable zone of contamination.
Typical Costs and Timelines Prior to Site Works
Site Works Costs and Timelines
Remediation approaches / technologies are discussed in detail in my previous article, Site Remediation: Part 1- The Basics and were divided into three broad categories and :
1. Do Nothing
2. Removal and Disposal
3. On-Site Treatment
We will look at costs for these categories based on some general assumptions:
- For groundwater: assume a relatively small site with a shallow contaminant plume and in the order of 100,000L of contaminated groundwater to remediate.
- For soils: assume a relatively small site with 1,000 m2 area of soil contamination that extends 1 to 2 m deep.
- Unit costs for smaller sites may be somewhat higher and unit costs for larger sites may be somewhat lower.
Reasonable site logistics
- Assume ready access to the site for equipment and machinery (e.g., drill rigs) and the site is in reasonable proximity (e.g., less than 100 km) to service providers, equipment, disposal facilities, etc.
- Access restrictions (e.g., at an airport or other areas with high security and special safety issues to consider) or great distances from contractors, hazardous waste disposal sites, etc. will increase costs.
- Assume that we are dealing with common contaminants such as hydrocarbons, PAHS, metals.
- Others, such as dioxins, complex mixtures, explosives, etc., may incur much higher sampling and laboratory and/or contracting and/or disposal costs that will, of course, also increase overall costs.
No site restrictions
- Assume no restrictions that may affect timing or schedules.
- Sites located in an area with sensitive archaeological/ecological issues, UXOs, etc. will increase costs.
- Assume regulator is receptive to risk-based approaches for remediation; if not, then remediation costs could be higher.
The table below summarizes the relative capital and operating costs for these various remediation approaches / technologies. Details of how the cost estimates were derived are in the following tables.
- Very Low ≤ $15,000;
- Low >$15,000 to ≤ $30,000;
- Moderate $30,000 to $100,000;
- High >$100,000
Annual operating costs:
- Very Low ≤$10,000;
- Low $10,000 to ≤$25,000;
- Moderate $25,000 to $100,000;
- High >$100,00
Relative Costs for Various Site Remediation Approaches/Technologies
Costs for this approach are very low compared to other approaches. Capital costs, if any, are related to items such as fencing the area, monitoring wells, etc.
Operating costs are related to ongoing monitoring and reporting that may be required by the authorities.
Costs for “Do Nothing” Alternative
Removal and Disposal
Costs for removal and disposal are highly variable and may be cost prohibitive, depending upon volumes of contaminated media to be removed, transport costs, and tipping, plus destruction and/or disposal fees associated with different types of contaminants.
Costs for Removal and Disposal
Capital costs for on-site treatment technologies are higher than approaches described above for off-site disposal. These additional costs are associated with the equipment and installation costs required for the ex situ or in situ treatment technologies.
They may however be balanced by the lower operating costs, e.g., in cases where off-site disposal costs are very expensive.
Typical Costs for Selected On-Site Groundwater Remediation Technologies
Typical Costs for Selected On-Site Soil Remediation Technologies
This article was first published on 23 June 2023 on the Inogen Alliance website.
Feature photo image from Tulio Mattos (https://www.pexels.com/@tulio-mattos-98491730/).