Most environmental programs focus on prevention, usually by encouraging people to reduce their consumption or choose products that will not put any more pollutants into the environment. Those efforts are useful for making sure that the damage does not get any worse, but they do not do anything about the pollution that has already occurred. There are some cases where nature can purge the contamination on its own over time, but there are many more cases where only human intervention can make things clean again. Many small businesses are taking part in the process, which is called environmental remediation, which is currently making a significant impact on the natural world.
Water is the foundation of almost every environmental cycle. If the water supply is too contaminated, plants start to suffer and die. As the plants die, the herbivores that feed on them are forced to leave the area in search of food or starve. Their departure puts carnivores into the same position. In an aquatic ecosystem, the situation gets even worse. It can strike every layer of the food chain at once, and in some cases can even lead to algal blooms that can kill every fish in the area.
As such, it should come as no surprise that many remediation projects focus on cleaning the waterways. Depending on the type of contamination in the area, chemical, biological, or mechanical treatments might be used. These target both major bodies of water and the groundwater supply, to prevent the groundwater from recontaminating the area.
The beneficial results are clear. Plants and animals form healthy ecosystem in the purified areas. The process can also help humans, since many contaminants can seep into wells that provide drinking water. This is especially important in developing nations, but even the developed world benefits from these treatments.
Some remediation efforts involve introducing species to an area. This is usually done to replace organisms that were killed as a result of the original contamination. When plants are introduced, they anchor soil in place to prevent erosion, dust storms, and landslides. When animals are introduced, they help to prevent populations from growing too large.
The simplest form of remediation is removing physical debris from an area. This often means picking up garbage that has been left in the area. Sometimes that results from littering, but industrial waste can also linger in an area after mines or other polluting businesses close. Removing this debris prevents it from causing further environmental problems, as might happen when animals eat and choke on garbage, or when large chunks of waste smother new plant growth. If this is done early, it can even prevent the need for other, expensive remediation procedures in the future.