Environmental Cleanup Jobs

By Eric Hammer

No matter whether you read this in 2011, soon after it was written, or in 2050, years from now, the odds are good that there will always be jobs available in environmental cleanup. As long as the world depends on chemicals for producing food and fuels such as oil, coal and natural gas for keeping the power going or the car running, there will, sadly, be environmental disasters which require skilled technicians who work in the field of environmental cleanup.

However, before you rush out to find such jobs, it's important to understand that the work is not easy and is quite dirty. You will typically be working outdoors, in all kinds of weather and there is usually a persistent stench from the damage that has been caused by the environmental disaster that you have been sent to clean up. There are also health hazards involved, despite the best efforts of the environmental cleanup industry to protect workers.

You will typically be wearing special hazmat suits and respirators in order to work in the field of environmental cleanup, though such suits and respirators don't protect you when you arrive at the worksite and get dressed for the job. This has led to many people who worked at cleaning up oil spills reporting breathing problems months or even years after the job ended.

How Much Can You Make?

As of 2011, ship captains typically can earn as much as $500 for a trip out on the river to engage in environmental cleanup while general workers typically earn around $15-$20 per hour for the work.

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Keep in mind that this is a physically demanding job. If you are not in good health, it's unlikely that environmental cleanup work is going to be a good fit for you. The job can also be extremely depressing as you will often find that it's too late to save thousands of animals that have perished because of a chemical or oil spill that you have been sent in to deal with.

It is also worth remembering, as noted above, that there are health risks involved in environmental cleanup work. The most common problem that most workers report is breathing issues since microscopic particles of toxic chemicals often end up inside their lungs, in spite of the best safety efforts.

Those who are interested in this kind of work may also want to consider working in hazardous materials cleanup work. Whereas environmental cleanup most often involves cleaning up oil spills and the like, hazardous materials workers can be called upon to help clean up asbestos and other kinds of hazardous materials in various homes and other areas where it had been installed in the past. Such work also pays quite well and involves similar skills.

Qualifications / Requirements

Generally, you'll need a certain amount of training in handling hazardous materials and in environmental cleanup before you can land a job doing this kind of work. While most states don't have specific regulations, most employers will prefer those who have had such training, which can last several months. You should also be physically able to handle hard labor in harsh conditions as the work is quite demanding.

First Steps

Start by taking appropriate courses in handling hazardous materials and becoming certified in environmental cleanup work. Then, look for companies which specialize in this field and which are currently hiring. Be prepared to relocate to wherever the environmental disaster happens to be on relatively short notice.


Check out these helpful resources to learn more about environmental cleanup jobs:

Ocean Careers: Environmental Cleanup - This is an excellent introduction to the work of environmental cleanup and what it involves. Be sure to click on the various sections to find out all the details as the initial page doesn't have any information on it.

Sun Sentinel: Oil Cleanup Work Pays Well, but Work is Tough -This is a good general article on the business of environmental cleanup and what's involved in doing the job and getting work in the field.

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