HAZWASTES: Boom Expected In Cleanup Spending And Technologies

For developers of innovative waste remediation technologies, a new report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers reassurance that a market worth billions of dollars does, in fact, loom ahead.

According to Cleaning Up The Nation's Waste Sites: Markets And Technology Trends, over the next two to three decades the cleanup of Department of Energy (DOE) sites will cost hundreds of billions of dollars, and other site remediation markets will require outlays of tens of billions of dollars. While incineration and solidification/stabilization - the most widely used alternatives to land disposal - will continue to play an important role in site remediation, the EPA predicts that remediators will increasingly seek less expensive and/or more effective treatment methods.

The report describes national cleanup projects in progress, as well as innovative processes currently entering the marketplace, to help companies identify and develop the new technology needed.

"Improved access to data on domestic markets will help direct the development of new technology and strengthen U.S. capabilities in environmental cleanup," notes Walter Kovalick, director of EPA's Technology Innovation Office and acting deputy assistant administrator for the office of solid waste and emergency response. "As companies acquire field experience in this country, they will be better equipped to compete internationally."

Since metals, solvents and pe-troleum products are common at remediation sites, innovative techniques for handling these contaminants are expected to have a large market. Also needed are systems to handle sediments, landfill waste and slag. The EPA defines "innovative technologies" as those that lack the cost and performance data needed to support their routine use, and have only limited full-scale application.

For the Superfund program, the EPA expects the greatest need to be for methods to handle metals in soil and provide in-situ groundwater treatment (see chart for contaminated material quantities). Metal-contaminated soil represents a "potentially large, but untapped, market for innovative treatment," the report says, noting that new separation technologies would re-duce the amount of waste requiring solidification/stabilization, or allow valuable metals to be recovered.

The agency also found that:

* Soil vapor extraction has been the most widely used innovation technology, and methods for in-creasing soil permeability and contaminant volatility are expected to increase its effectiveness and applicability;

* The use of thermal desorption may increase at sites that are un-suitable for vapor extraction of VOCs or where PCBs are present; and

* Bioremediation may be used more frequently as air-based methods are developed to aerate soil and groundwater in place. A limiting factor on bioremediation at Super-fund sites is the absence of bio-degradable contaminants. This may be changed as more wood preserving sites are added to the National Priorities List (NPL).

A relatively well-defined market for innovative technologies is the approximately 750 sites currently on the NPL for which remedies have not yet been selected. About 80 percent of these require groundwater remediation, while 74 percent contain at least 26 million cubic yards of soil, sludge and sediment. Another 400 to 800 sites are expected to be listed through the year 2000, with remedial action to begin in eight to 16 years.

Among the other programs, the EPA found that the Department of Defense (DOD) expects to spend $26 billion to clean up 7,000 sites whose most common contaminants are similar to those found at industrial facilities plus some unexploded ordnance or low-level radioactive materials.

DOE says remediation may be necessary at about 4,000 areas covering more than 26,000 acres. About 295,000 sites containing underground storage tanks will re-quire the cleanup of at least 56 million cubic yards of soil and debris.

A different study, Site Cleanup Under Superfund, DOD and DOE Markets, by Frost & Sullivan Mar-ket Intelligence, Mountain View, Calif., estimates that the U.S. hazardous waste cleanup market will more than triple from $3.4 billion in 1992 to $11.2 billion by 1999. The market segment funded by the DOE will pace industry growth, increasing from 35 percent in 1992 to 47 percent by 1999, while Superfund cleanups are expected to drop from 38 to 34 percent.