Environment, Federal Government, North America, United States, Sustainability
A Life-Cycle Perspective Can Minimize Cleanup Costs
With many of the remaining cleanups in the Superfund program involving large, complex sites and fewer funds to implement the remedies, life-cycle costs become an important consideration when planning and designing a remedy. Life-cycle costs include the costs of designing, implementing, and operating and maintaining a remedy until a site can be closed (see illustration).
Evaluating life-cycle costs of a remedy from project inception through operations and maintenance (O&M) can guide effective use of the shrinking funds available. Minimizing life-cycle costs may mean investing more funds early in the process to allow the cleanup and O&M to be more efficient and effective, thereby saving money over the life of the remediation project.
Potential Cost-Reducing Considerations
Some of the factors we evaluate to ensure that a remedy minimizes life-cycle costs include:
- Will spending more on a remedy reduce life-cycle costs by minimizing O&M costs?
- Can the groundwater contamination be cleaned up with an in situ remedy rather than a long-term pump-and-treat remedy?
- If a site requires a long-term pump-and-treat remedy, will specifying automation and equipment that reduces the cost of the process minimize life-cycle costs through lower O&M costs?
- Will a pilot study for an in situ remedy lead to a shorter response action and lower O&M costs?
Sites for which CDM Smith has effectively minimized life-cycle costs include large mining sites, large groundwater sites and sites with complex hydrogeology. Life-cycle costs were reduce on a groundwater pump-and-treat site in South Carolina by including automation, specifying materials of construction that would last longer, and designing a process that minimized the frequency of sludge disposal, reducing the cost of long-term O&M. At a site in California, we conducted a pilot study using multiple technologies, which enabled site closure rather than having to implement a long-term pump-and-treat remedy.
Evaluating life-cycle costs throughout the CERCLA process rather than just trying to minimize costs in the earlier stages of the process ensures that a site’s total costs are minimized.
Geoffrey McKenzie, PE, is a civil/environmental engineer who has been designing solutions for hazardous waste sites for more than 25 years. He has worked at more than 60 Superfund sites nationwide.