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National program advances knowledge of natural attenuation
Natural attenuation based remedies for chlorinated solvents are simple in concept but can be complicated in real-world applications. Dr. Brian Looney of the Savannah River National Laboratory is leading a team of nationally recognized scientists and engineers developing concepts and tools to support the use of attenuation based remedies at sites with wide ranging conditions where a variety of attenuation processes act to stabilize the plume, under a project funded by DOE Office of Environmental Management and managed by EM's Claire Sink. A challenge faced by all site owners is determining when and how to transition from either active source removal or plume treatments to Monitored Natural Attenuation. Two of the key topics under development in this project support making the transition decision. The first involves employing a mass balance to evaluate whether a plume is stable or shrinking; project participants are exploring how to do those calculations and gather the appropriate data. The second concept, Enhanced Attenuation, enables a site owner to transition from an active source or plume technology to a designed technology that, once implemented, results in sustainable attenuation mechanisms and meeting compliance goals.
An integral component of the project is a set of 14 research studies managed by Karen Vangelas of SRNL that further our scientific understanding and measuring of attenuation processes. Several of the studies have taken advantage of knowledge gained in the basic science programs such as Environmental Management Science and Natural and Accelerated Bioremediation Research Programs (now DOE-ERSP) and the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (DOD-SERDP). Several research teams who have been furthering the understanding of the correlation of genetic structure and biological degradation activity, including those led by Frank Loeffler at Georgia Tech and James Gossett at Cornell University, are taking this knowledge to develop and deploy molecular tools to real world problems at active field sites at the DOE Savannah River Site. A research team led by Jack Istok at Oregon State and Aaron Peacock at Microbial Insights, who were funded through ERSP to develop push-pull tests to evaluate biological degradation of chlorinated solvents, have been funded by this project to study using the push-pull tests on a TCE-contaminated groundwater system to evaluate the natural attenuation capacity and calculate a mass balance on this system. These applied science studies support the transition of basic science to practical real-world usage. Other studies are described in the project's newsletter, the Natural Attenuation Monitor.
A unique feature of this project has been the collaboration with the Interstate Technology and Regulatory Council (ITRC), a coalition of regulators from 46 states whose charter includes increasing the rate at which new environmental technologies are implemented. DOE and the ITRC are jointly developing the concept of Enhanced Attenuation and the science and technologies that support its implementation and monitoring. Incorporation of new technologies into characterization, remediation, and monitoring activities is often met with resistance by site owners due to their uncertainty in regards to regulator acceptance. This collaboration will lead to the ITRC incorporating the most promising technologies and concepts into a technical-regulatory guidance document and subsequent training programs, thus facilitating acceptance by regulators and a level of comfort by site owners to include the new technologies in their remediation plans.
Submitted by DOE's Savannah River National Laboratory
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