Clean Goes Green: Green Remediation and the New MCP

January 20, 2016

iStock_000001594604Medium.jpgTraditional approaches used to assess and remediate releases of oil and hazardous materials have focused primarily on the protection of human health and the environment, emphasizing technical practicability, timeliness, and cost. Unfortunately, these approaches may further impact the environment through:

  • increased energy use, 
  • detrimental air emissions, 
  • adverse effects on natural resources, and 
  • the generation of wastes.  

To maximize the net environmental benefit of assessment and remediation, the application of green remediation approaches should be considered.


Green remediation 

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) defines Green Remediation as the practice of considering all environmental effects of remedy implementation and incorporating options to minimize the environmental footprints of cleanup actions. 


As a matter of policy (USEPA Principles for Greener Cleanups, August 2009), the goal of the USEPA Office of Solid Waste & Emergency Response (OSWER) policy is to evaluate cleanup actions comprehensively to ensure protection of human health and the environment and to reduce the environmental footprint of cleanup activities, to the maximum extent possible. It is OSWER’s policy to facilitate and encourage use of the ASTM Standard Guide for Greener Cleanups (SGGC; ASTM E2893-13, November 2013) in implementing green remediation approaches. 


2014 MCP revisions include green remediation  

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s (MADEP’s) 2014 revisions to the Massachusetts Contingency Plan (MCP) included amendments relevant to greener cleanups.  Specifically, the Response Action Performance Standard (RAPS) at 310 Code of Massachusetts Regulations (CMR) 40.0191(3)(e) now require that consideration be given to total energy use, air pollutant emissions, greenhouse gases, water use, materials consumption, and ecosystem and water resources impacts resulting from the performance of response actions through energy efficiency, renewable energy use, materials management, waste reduction,  land management, and ecosystem protection.  Additionally, the Detailed Evaluation Criteria for selecting a comprehensive remedial action within the MCP, at 310 CMR 40.0858(4)(c), requires that remedial action alternatives shall be evaluated in terms of comparative costs, including the relative total consumption of energy resources in the implementation and operation of the alternatives, and externalities associated with the use of those resources, including greenhouse gases and other air pollutants.


The 2014 MCP amendments related to greener cleanups promote green approaches for the assessment and remediation of oil and hazardous material in support of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ mandate to improve energy efficiency, reduce emissions and expand the use of renewable energy resources where practicable.  In achieving this mandate, the MADEP also cites the use of the ASTM SGGC to meet the provisions of 310 CMR 40.0191(3)(e).



The SGGC, which was developed in consultation with the MADEP, the USEPA and numerous other agencies, institutions and organizations; provides a defined process and technical protocols to help integrate green remediation considerations into response actions.  The SGGC process includes:

  • a five-step process for evaluating and implementing best management practices (BMPs) to reduce the environmental footprint of cleanup activities, with over 160 BMPs included;
  • guidelines for quantifying the environmental footprint of cleanup activities; and
  • provisions for publicly reporting the decision-making processes and the outcome of greener remediation practices considered.


Get in touch

Call GeoInsight Senior Hydrogeologist Kevin Trainer at 978.679.1600 or e-mail him at to learn more.