Where Phytoremediation Can Be Practical and Effective, Even Profitable
The new company Phytoremedia (www,phytoremedia) is the first truly commercial scale phytoremediation company in Eastern Europe and one of the few such companies in the world. Phytoremedia has gathered a panel of experts from all over the world to advise on projects and offers a full turn-key solution. Its experts come from Poland, the US, India, Taiwan and Belgium and the team is growing. This approach offers cleanup to regulatory levels for many polluted sites, but has been underutilized due to lack of information among regulators and the affected site owners. It also has a disadvantage of taking several years to implement and many remedial situations occur in the middle of a developers' building schedule. Nevertheless there is a major role that can be played by this attractive technology.
The company is exploring the best alternatives for phytoremediation: idle land that has been rendered pretty much of little commercial value due to contamination. This can be "real estate-owned" by banks taken as security on a default (then found to be commercially of little or even negative value). It can be municipal land owned after prior industrial operations closed - perhaps years ago. The communist government in Poland often placed plants in or very near cities as a political strategy, but they now can often be found in what would otherwise be prime commercial locations for commercial or even residential development. Finally, you have operating plants that have a legacy of contamination on their grounds: even if they have been through the process and obtained a remedial order that may allow existing contamination after a risk assessment shows no real exposure pathways, assuming industrial use, the future can change things dramatically. The closure of the factory in the future will mean that an alternative use of he property will have to go through the whole remedial investigation/risk assessment again and likely have more aggressive cleanup requirements. The most profitable sale of the land will likely be precluded by its contamination.
In the case of holders of integrated permits under the EU IED Directive, which include almost all industrial enterprises from dry cleaning plants to steel mills, there is also a closure obligation to remove contamination at the time of termination of operations. "[W]when the PPC licensed process ceases and the facility is closed, the operator must submit a Site Closure Report describing the soil and groundwater quality to determine whether any soil and/or groundwater contamination has taken place whilst the permitted process has been in operation. If any contamination has taken place during the lifetime of the PPC permit, the site must be returned to a “satisfactory state” before the permit can be surrendered." The Soil and Groundwater Technology Association, UK. In Poland, the Act of 27 April 2001, the Environmental Protection Law (consolidated text: the Journal of Laws of 2016, item 672) imposes this requirement consistent with the EU Directive.
This requirement is somewhat mooted by the Polish law - widely found in the rest of Europe - that a site owner is in any event legally liable for contaminated property. Under article 26 paragraph. 1 of the Waste Act, the site owner is considered a waste holder with strict liability for cleanup. See II SA / Bk 149/14 Judgment, WSA in Bialystok, June 5, 2014. See Srzelec, Obligation to Remove Illegally Stored Waste: Selected Issues, 2017. "The owner of the property is always responsible for the waste," II SA / Bk 149/14. The main significance of the IED is that closure of the plant will trigger this process, using risk assessment to determine the extent of necessary cleanup. See Agnieszka Skorupińska, "Zanieczyszczone gleby – regulacjeprawne obowiązujące w Polsce," 26 września 2018 roku, REMEDy Panaceum na Zanieczyszczone Tereny.
Urban phytoremediation site
In all of the above cases, if the contaminants are a good fit for phytoremediation, the time scale of several years of planting is not the barrier. It often is when everyone is in a hurry. Given the relatively quite low cost of phytoremediation, this is an excellent long-term strategy to revitalize brownfield sites and open them up to full commercial development.
The modest cost of a phytoremediation feasibility study is well worth the effort if your situation fits into one of these categories or is otherwise a case where you as site owner have some time to cleanup the property.