Let’s Get Remedial
“LNAPL!” cried Barney, the guy in the pick-up truck.
“It can’t be!” said the stockpile to the west. It was dirt. Five hundred tonnes of wasted silty clay mixed with the occasional brick and cinder block that had been mixed in during the demolition. Beyond it was the rubble pile: the last of the building.
“Stay away, stockpile,” warned Barney, approaching the patch of grass. He stared at the oozing liquid coming from the shovel hole; it was red, and had a sheen. “What we need,” he said, “is a good old fashioned remediation!”
Barney took a drink from his flask and tossed it away. He had a drum in the back of the truck. Quarter full. “No!” cried the liquid LNAPL. “Not that stuff!”
“Pay it forwards,” said Barney, as he slung the drum over the ground and poured the liquid into the hole. It sizzled where it touched the ooze.
“Hydrogen peroxide,” said the LNAPL. “You bitch.” The peroxide soaked into the soil, oxidizing everything in its path. A few worms got in the way, and melted; a rock started to sizzle, and fell apart. Barney dug the shovel deep, so that the liquid could percolate.
“We trust you, Barney,” cried the stockpile. It was sticking out a tongue at the remains of the building. A silt fence hemmed it in, though, so it couldn’t move. It dreamt at night of a hill, over the drumlin; something it could mate with, make loam, maybe peat. Get away from all this light phase non-aqueous liquid, the bricks, the men who came to take them, the building that had spat them out.
“I know, stockpile,” grunted Barney. The drum was empty.
Barney had a vile in his pocket. In the sunlight, the liquid was purple. “What is it?” asked stockpile.
“Nutrients. Some bugs. Nothing you need to worry about.” He sprinkled some in the hole.
And the LNAPL spoke. It chanted, because nutrients are like the food that we ingest, the source of our hardships too – the nourishment that like flesh is returned when we are spent and ready to become the source again. The source of everything. Nutrients bring life, and a little peroxide brings oxygen, and between the two we make some experiments that once someone made for us, on the grandest scale imaginable – and poof, there we were, and then we were apes, and soon we were Barney. Microbes slithered in the hole, boiling, looking for food, food such as that LNAPL. Bit by bit, the microbes ate, chomping on LNAPL’s legs, its arms, its body too.
“Bioventing,” Barney said to the last bits of LNAPL. “Biology is the most efficient consumer of all.”
And LNAPL rapped, like this: “You want to oxidize me? Well this is anarchy. You want to remediate me? I come back to pollute thee. Call me hazardous waste? I was born in a failed state. And so you diminish me, dispense with me, you make money from me, and then you remediate me… And now I’m fading away. Because suddenly I’m in the way. Like a greengas house. Or a three-headed mouse. Or a moose-sized louse. Or a…” (Dies)
“Goodbye, LNAPL,” said stockpile.
Barney looked at it. “Your turn.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m going to screen you through a trommel.”
“A spinning mesh with holes.”
“Me? But I’m clean, man, I’m clean!”
“I saw those bricks. Bits of glass.”
“Can’t you just put me back in the ground? Bury me deep, Barney. I won’t make a sound, I promise.”
“Too late,” said Barney, and he got his loader and started pushing the pile around until it was all screened, and out the back end was one pile of clean dirt and one pile of debris. The new stockpile didn’t make a sound. It sat there, inert.
When Barney got back to the hole, it was clean except for that bead of silver right in the middle, where something had come up. Something that was sitting on the bedrock, accumulating, climbing, because diffusion takes hot to cold, and dirty to clean. “DNAPL,” said Barney, squinting. “You just couldn’t stay away, could you.” Barney got his shovel. Barney got to work.