- Cascade Environmental
Seismic shifts are underway in the environmental services industry. New regulations, market drivers, and technologies are coming, and it can be hard to balance meeting current needs with readying for future requirements. That’s why we spoke to our experts and asked them to identify some of the most important industry trends. They delivered, sharing their insight about what is coming next for environmental services and what you should consider doing to prepare.
Read on to learn what our experts predict will be a few of the biggest trends and developments over the next few years.
Automated injection is poised to be one of the big leaps forward for remediation technology. One of the biggest obstacles this industry faces on every project is the capacity for human error or inexactitude, and we see that especially in manual injection processes. By taking the human variable out and automating injection, we will see improved efficacy of the amendments used and be able to leverage real-time site data for further optimization.
Early adopters of this technology are going to put themselves ahead of the pack with the remediation results they’ll be able to achieve, which I foresee being an advantage in subsequent project bids.
Thermal remediation is often ruled out due to the assumed energy demands and cost of utilization—but the development of low temperature thermal treatment options is poised to change that.
Although some sites will always be best served via mid- to high-temperature thermal remedies, there are many that don’t require it. Low temp thermal is a cost efficient and sustainable remedy that strategically heats the subsurface to optimize bioremediation and chemistry applications; the combined effect is an increased degradation rate of 3-4x higher than what could be achieved by using the amendments on their own, and improved uniformity of treatment.
In the next few years, I predict we will see thermal remediation working in tandem with many other technologies with excellent and more sustainable results.
The next few years will be bumpy for many industries like ours, as we see experienced field implementation experts retire and simultaneously struggle to hire entry level employees to build a sustainable talent pipeline.
However, there is hope on the horizon—I’m seeing a greater emphasis than ever before on the value of skilled labor and trades. I am currently working with an industry coalition to develop a pilot program for training future drillers which, if successful, we will replicate nationwide. The cooperation of companies that act in the marketplace as competitors is amazing, and I’m really excited to see the impact of what we can accomplish together. I am also encouraged by the growing recognition of the importance of field service and frontline roles across all industries—they provide valuable contributions to our nation and its economy, and we will only benefit from valuing the people who fill them.
Emerging PFAS contaminants are receiving increased public and regulatory scrutiny. States have adopted their own drinking water standards and the EPA is close behind with national regulations. Currently site characterization is in high gear to better assess the extent of contamination. In fact, ASTM Phase 1 guidance now includes PFAS.
Which leads us to what’s next: cost effective solutions for PFAS remediation at the source and/or extended plumes.
The majority of technology focus has been on pump and treat systems, with some existing systems being upgraded or new ones installed—but those footing the capital and O&M bills are less than thrilled by the thought about installing a new round of these expensive and perpetual systems.
In situ remedies are the future of PFAS treatment. Like pump and treat, the challenge with in situ treatment is the indestructibility of PFAS, which at this time has driven the initial focus to sequestration of PFAS on adsorbents to immediately eliminate off site risk and liability.
In 2022, we will be seeing the results of R&D field tests, which should bring clarity to PFAS remediation options, their costs, and the extent they can minimize owner liability. A promising technology to keep an eye on in this space is activated carbon amendments.
Cyber attacks are nothing new, but the intensity, frequency and sophistication of attacks is increasing.
These attacks previously focused on larger organizations, but as the tools have become more ubiquitous, the targets have trended heavily toward the small to midsize companies of less than 1,000 employees and $1B in revenue. This is the category where many environmental services companies fall, and explains why we are seeing an uptick in attacks.
Hackers are not only growing in the sophistication of their methods, but also in their strategy. We are now seeing more complex and long life end goals where they monitor and learn your behavior to send false invoices into your AP department, false bank change requests into your finance department, or even attack your partners with false bank change information to siphon off your receivables.
In the next few years, every environmental services company and their partners will become victims to these attacks at some level. Smart leaders will look for ways to minimize and mitigate risk, and I anticipate part of the equation will be including cybersecurity as a selection criteria during bidding processes for contractors.
Thanks to the recently passed infrastructure bill, there will be an upswing in the volume of geotechnical projects beginning in the next 12-24 months. Let’s face it—our roads, bridges, dams and shorelines need to be upgraded, and it will keep many drilling companies across the nation busy.
Whether you’re an environmental consultant who does or doesn’t work in this arena or a geotechnical engineer who is very familiar, I suggest evaluating your relationship with the drilling contractors you most often work with. Is there a way to ensure access to their support as you face increased competition for their time? Are they large enough to have equipment and crews when you need them? Do they offer MSAs that could lock into a preferred status?
It is worth considering what you can do now to minimize the potential impact to your future projects.
If you would like to connect with any of our experts with questions about predicted industry trends or to gain their insight on upcoming projects, you can reach out to them directly or fill out our contact form. They will be in touch shortly.