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

A Life-Cycle Perspective Can Minimize Cleanup Costs

remediation perspectives

Geoffrey McKenzieGeoffrey McKenzie

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?

Proven Results
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.