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Characterization and Monitoring Technologies for Cleaning Up Contaminated Sites

Many technologies are available to assist in conducting cost effective site investigation, characterization and monitoring efforts. Through the application of new technologies, several innovative practices for site investigation and cleanup have emerged over the years. These practices incorporate systematic project planning, dynamic work strategies and the use of real-time measurement technologies to accelerate and improve the cleanup process by reducing costs, improving decision certainty, and expediting site redevelopment. For example, effective systematic planning of the investigation can result in lower overall project costs, while dynamic work strategies can save time and reduce or eliminate the need for multiple mobilizations to a site to complete investigations. Successful site characterization projects rely on environmental data that accurately represent actual site conditions and result in a robust conceptual site model (CSM) of observed conditions. This, in turn, helps to reduce uncertainty about the site conditions and support robust site cleanup decisions. These tools and methods increase sampling density and precision by enabling lower per-measurement costs than sole reliance on conventional sampling and laboratory analysis methods. In addition, they can also increase the quality and value of conventionally derived data by ensuring that samples are collected from the appropriate locations, thereby increasing the representativeness of those samples. Project teams can use data collected with field based methods to make timely decisions rather than waiting for laboratory results and formal project report generation which can take weeks to months. Reducing uncertainties in the CSM can be accomplished with the implementation of high-resolution site characterization (HRSC) strategies and techniques using scale appropriate measurements and sample density to define contaminant distributions and placement with greater certainty.

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Innovative Practices and Technology Information

Environmental Cleanup Best Management Practices: Effective Use of the Project Life Cycle Conceptual Site Model
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) supports the use of best management practices (BMPs) as a mechanism for maximizing technical effectiveness and resource efficiency in the execution of site assessment and cleanup projects. This fact sheet is the first in a series of documents that address conceptual site models (CSMs). This fact sheet summarizes how environmental practitioners can use CSMs to achieve, communicate, and maintain stakeholder consensus on site understanding, while satisfying the technical and quality objectives required for each stage of a cleanup project's life cycle. The focus is on defining stages and products of CSMs along with potential applications of CSMs at various stages of a project life cycle. Content herein is presented in a Superfund Program context; however, to the extent practical, text has been written to maximize applicability in other programs and regulatory frameworks. Other agencies and programs may find these concepts useful and environmental cleanup practitioners are encouraged to explore the utility and integration of a project life cycle CSM within their own program requirements and deliverable schedules.

Interstate Technology and Regulatory Council (ITRC) Incremental Sampling Methodology TeamExit
Incremental sampling methodology (ISM) is a structured composite sampling and processing protocol for soils that provides representative samples of specific soil volumes by collecting numerous increments of soil that are combined, processed and subsampled according to specific protocols. ISM reduces data variability and improves the reliability and defensibility of sampling data.

High-Resolution Site Characterization (HRSC)
High-resolution site characterization (HRSC) strategies and techniques use scale-appropriate measurement and sample density to define contaminant distributions, and the physical context in which they reside, with greater certainty, supporting faster and more effective site cleanup.

A project is funded by ESTCP as part of their technology transfer program to develop a resource that maintains the most up-to-date information about environmental restoration technologies. Articles are written by invited experts, edited by leaders in this field, and aim to introduce and summarize current knowledge to environmental project professionals on topics using cross-linked references to reports and technical literature.

Summary of the Triad Approach to Decision-making for Hazardous Waste Sites
The Triad approach to decision-making for hazardous waste sites offers a technically defensible methodology for managing decision uncertainty that leverages innovative characterization tools and strategies. The Triad refers to three primary components, systematic planningdynamic work strategies, and real-time measurement systems. If you are unfamiliar with the Triad, follow the links to learn more about what makes the Triad different from traditional approaches, key Triad concepts, requirements for successfully implementing a Triad approach, and the benefits one can expect from implementing the Triad.

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Technology Screening and Selection Tools

ITRC: Integrated DNAPL Site Characterization and Tools Selection (ISC-1) Exit
Published in 2015, this document, with an on-line presence, synthesizes the knowledge of DNAPL site characterization and remediation acquired over the past several decades, and provides guidance on simultaneous characterization of contaminant distributions, hydrogeology, and attenuation processes.  

SERDP ESTCP:  Passive Sampling for Groundwater Monitoring: Technology Status Exit
A summary of research on tools available to reduce the costs of long term groundwater monitoring, focusing on three types of passive samplers, including advantages, disadvantages and performance information

ITRC: Tool Selection for the Characterization of Contamination in Fractured BedrockExit
The Tool Selection Worksheet offers a rapid method of identifying the appropriate tools and information for collecting geologic, hydrologic, and chemical data. An interactive approach to evaluate over 100 investigation tools that can be used to collect the data needed to satisfy the data collection objectives.

USGS/EPA: Fractured Rock Geophysical Toolbox Method Selection Tool (FRGT-MST)
A spreadsheet-based to identify methods for use at fractured-rock sites, based on project goals and site description. It includes 30 surface, cross-hole, and borehole geophysical methods.

USGS/EPA: The Scenario Evaluator for Electrical Resistivity (SEER) Survey Pre-Modeling Tool
This resource is intended for use by practitioners who wish to determine the value of including electrical resistivity imaging to achieve project goals, and is designed to have broad utility in industry, teaching, and research. 

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Technical Support Resources

The Superfund Technical Support and Resource Centers host information or links to Superfund program research needs, Office of Research and Development research plans and results for Superfund, and sources of technical support for Superfund and RCRA Corrective Action program staff.

Technical Support Project for Cleaning Up Contaminated Sites
EPA established the Technical Support Project (TSP) in 1987 to provide technical assistance to regional Remedial Project Managers (RPMs), Corrective Action Staff, and On-Scene Coordinators. The TSP consists of a network of regional forums and specialized technical support centers located EPA laboratories, and the Environmental Response Team. The objectives of the TSP are to share information and best practices with other EPA programs and other federal agencies.

Superfund Analytical Services/Contract Laboratory Program (CLP)
The Superfund Contract Laboratory Program (CLP) provides analytical services to EPA, the Army Corp of Engineers as well as state, local and Tribal agencies to support Superfund, Brownfields, and other EPA programs. The analytical services section provides guidelines and information about analytical methods available from the CLP on inorganics, organics and low concentration, and non-routine analyses.

EPA Environmental Response Team Center
EPA’s Environmental Response Team (ERT) provides EPA regional and headquarters offices, federal, state and local agencies, and foreign governments with experienced technical and logistical assistance in responding to environmental emergencies, such as oil or hazardous materials spills. ERT also provides assistance in the characterization and cleanup of hazardous waste sites. The (ERT) website offers an array of products to assist environmental practitioners both in the field and in the office. They offer immediate download of items such as software packages, guidance related to a wide variety of environmental sampling procedures, analytical and quality assurance standard operating procedures (SOPs), fact sheets, and bulletins. 

SERDP Ask a Geophysicist ForumExit
  This is an interactive place to get answers to questions on the use of geophysics for environmental site management.

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Clean Up Information Network (CLU-IN)

A wealth of information is available on characterization, monitoring, and remediation technologies. EPA developed the Contaminated Site Clean-Up Information (CLU-IN) website to provide useful and comprehensive information about innovative treatment and site characterization technologies and to serve as a forum for the contaminated site remediation community. Visit CLU-IN for more information.