file under: Environment, Federal Government, North America, United States, Sustainability

10 Ways to Accelerate Cleanups

remediation perspectives

Cannon SilverCannon Silver

Overall, the key success to accelerating cleanup is to put into place a sound, flexible plan with a clear endpoint, communicate that plan, and then be ready to quickly adapt the plan to changing conditions. Here are 10 steps to help make that happen.

  1. Begin with the end in mind. Establish clear data quality objectives before sampling or operating a system. Think carefully about the data you need, the most efficient ways to gather and analyze it, potential use of existing data, and the actions that the results will guide. The goal is to gather just enough data to minimize later surprises and to move ahead with your cleanup.
  2. Use data and statistics to support decision making. Use standard software packages to guide sampling and to evaluate trends. It is hard to argue against the numbers.
  3. Optimize, optimize, optimize. Identify and implement specific actions that improve effectiveness and cost efficiency at every phase of the cleanup. Continually ask how can the remedial investigation be optimized? The design? The remedial action? Actively monitor system performance data to determine when the system may be turned off per the established exit strategy. This may require an independent expert to review objectives and system data. Carefully monitor compliance data to determine when remedial action objectives are met.
  4. Don’t cut corners. Haste does make waste. Take the time up front to think, plan and communicate that plan. Identify each review and permitting task needed. Plan to “do no harm” and ultimately the cleanup will be effective. Use experienced teams and personnel.
  5. More communication is better than not enough. Take the time to share plans with stakeholders and get feedback along the way. This applies to the project team, state agencies and the community. While this communication approach may take more time, the effort builds trust that can pay off with fewer hurdles down the road and more support to overcome hurdles if they do arise.
  6. Avoid mission impossible. Establish SMART remedial action objectives—specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time bound. You may need to discuss alternative end points (examples include risk-based remediation to meet 95% upper confidence levels, rather than point-by-point remediation). Develop and obtain buy-in for a clear exit strategy.
  7. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Take advantage of available information and tools to analyze data, evaluate remedial technologies, and inform designs and optimization. Apply high-resolution investigation techniques, on-line modeling, and green and sustainable evaluation guidance. Use these resources to estimate timeframes and removal effectiveness of various technologies rather than design or operate within a vacuum. Keeping up with the latest advances may ultimately save time and money.
  8. Design flexibility into the remedy. Subsurface conditions are veiled and dynamic. Plan flexibility into your remedy accordingly to allow you to effectively adapt to changing conditions. Incorporate combined remedies into planning documents to address different areas of the site and to provide flexibility to quickly move from one remedy to another as conditions change. Rent systems rather than purchase them, or order pre-packaged systems.
  9. Consider biological remedies. Some quick remedies, such as excavation or chemical oxidation, leave residual contamination that can delay site closure. Sustainable remedies, including permeable reactive barriers, enhanced bioremediation, and monitored natural attenuation, may play a role in addressing long-term residual contamination at the site, even while allowing site closure and property transfer to proceed.
  10. Think in terms of risk management. Ask both the probability and impact of each outcome; if the combination is sufficiently high, develop a mitigation plan. If not, proceed.

Cannon Silver, PE, is a principal environmental engineer with more than 20 years of experience in site assessments, remedial evaluations, design, construction, operation, and optimization. He has expertise in remedial process optimization, permeable reactive barriers, green and sustainable remediation and bioremediation solutions.