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DigitalBlue's avatar

How do they clean industrial waste spills from water sources?

Asked by DigitalBlue (7072points) February 8th, 2013

Recently, we had an incident in which thousands of gallons of chemical and oil laden fracking waste were dumped into our river. There is a criminal investigation and authorities are conducting a “clean up,” but how does that work? I can somewhat understand how they might remove oil from the water, since oil floats, but as for the actual wastewater and chemicals and heavy metals, how will that be removed? Will it?

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11 Answers

dabbler's avatar

As far as I can tell it’s difficult and expensive and often not completely done.
They’ll do things like dredge up contaminated soil from the bottom of the river and dump that is a hazardous waste fill. But that’s very expensive to do and the impact of digging up the bottom of the river can be arguably worse than letting the contamination lie.

DigitalBlue's avatar

@dabbler well that’s not comforting at all. :)

ETpro's avatar

@DigitalBlue The answer @dabbler provided is largely true, and that is why environmental groups oppose projects despite all the assurances from the polluters that nothing can possibly go wrong and they have contingency plans in place for every possible disaster. They are basically saying they know how to unring a bell, and we all know when they say such things they are lying.

Here’s an article on the tar-sands spill in Michigan. Two years after the original spill, it still isn’t cleaned up and may never be.

DigitalBlue's avatar

@ETpro it isn’t that i disbelieve @dabbler, in fact, I am not surprised. Just disappointing.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@DigitalBlue We have the same thing going on with Onondaga Lake. It’s heavily polluted and they are dredging the bottom and piping the contanimated soil to clay landfill cells. Only one problem, it’s making people near the landfill cells sick.

Ron_C's avatar

I’m not an expert, I just do industrial engineering but we could go a long way towards improved regulation is there was a strict wall between the regulators and industry. Unfortunately, in all branches of government regulators and industry representatives move easily between working for the industry and working for the government. I would like to see well trained government inspectors regulating industry and finance in a more adversarial way. One way to do this is to offer scholarships to engineers that work strictly on regulation. They should be well trained and well paid. Any collusion between the regulators and industry must have heavy penalties attached. I would like to see life sentences handed out to people responsible or major industrial damage.

ETpro's avatar

@Ron_C Actually, that’s a great idea.

Ron_C's avatar

@ETpro thanks, I think it’s a great idea too but it would never fly with the present Congress. The left wing would go for it but the right wants no regulation and they see nothing wrong with a guy being a regulator one week and regulated the next.

The problem is that both sides are dishonest and stay too long in Washington. We need better regulators and we need better legislators.

wildpotato's avatar

It depends on the water in question. For example, with the Housatonic River they sank sheetrock in a line down the middle of the river and diverted the flow to one half while they remediated the other, then switched the diversion and did the other side. Then when they got down to where the river had a rock bed and they couldn’t sink sheetrock, they used two 54 in. pipes to similarly divert the flow first off of one half and then off the other. Other rivers, like the Passaic, get dredged.

I think dredging may be the only option for lakes and the ocean. With lakes they put down a sand layer and remediate the shoreline, too.

The EPA gives extremely detailed info for all cleanups. Just google the body of water and the word “contamination” and it’ll route you to the page you want.

ETpro's avatar

@wildpotato If you look at what BP did in the Deepwater Horizon spill, they sprayed dangerous chemical dispersants all over the Gulf of Mexico and sunk the oil. It’s still down there polluting marine life. It’s still in wetlands polluting wildlife. And then they sunk huge sums of money into advertising how wonderful a company they are. That’s not an atypical response for a corporation. Business is business. Profits come first.

wildpotato's avatar

@ETpro Oh yeah, there’s that “solution” as well. It’s frustrating how the EPA rolls over much of the time.

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