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Shutting Down Groundwater Remediation Systems: Just Good Environmental Management

Author: The Author
Date: September 27, 2011

This blog post was contributed by REGENESIS CEO Scott Wilson.

I was recently preparing for a talk on the current trends in environmental management and the associated cost impact on commercial and industrial operations in the United States.  One of the clear trends noted was the proactive attitude being taken by some corporations with environmentally impacted properties such as those with groundwater contamination.  It seems that a number of progressive corporations see an economic advantage to implementing in situ treatment approaches that allow them to shut down inefficient and costly existing groundwater remediation systems.

In many states across the United States, regulations are now in place that allow for risk-based regulatory closure of sites with groundwater contamination.  Often risk-based cleanup objectives can be achieved by simply removing a significant mass of contamination from the source zone and conditioning the subsurface such that Monitored Natural Attenuation (MNA) will degrade the balance of contamination before any significant down-gradient receptor is impacted (e.g. surface water body or drinking water source).

In discussions about this topic here at REGENESIS it was brought to my attention that the environmental engineering firm Symbiont had taken this very approach. When their client was confronted with mounting costs, year after year, of operating a pumping system to control and treat a chlorinated solvent groundwater plume at their manufacturing plant in West Allis, Wisconsin, the team penciled the total lifecycle costs of continued operation—a total of $12 million out the door over the next 30 years!  Searching for alternatives to this they then looked at a creative approach using chemical oxidation  to reduce the mass of contamination in the source area, followed by injecting a controlled-release substrate to enhance the natural contaminant attenuation on the property (through a process referred to as reductive dechlorination).  They figured this “combined remedy” approach would enable them to shut down the costly pumping system and position them to make the case that the site required “No Further Action” based upon the source mass being reduced, no receptors being impacted and the plume undergoing natural attenuation.  The project was then undertaken with the application of REGENESIS technologies.

The Symbiont team recently published the results of their creative approach at the International Symposium on Bioremediation and Sustainable Environmental Technologies sponsored by Battelle held in May this year in Reno, Nevada.  By anyone’s measure this project has been a tremendous success. Due to the mass removal in the source area regulators allowed for deactivation of the costly pumping system in May 2011.  The project is currently on a quarterly monitoring schedule with the intent of gaining “No Further Action” status within the next 24 months.  For more about the project, read the poster  presented at the Battelle Bioremediation Conference.

So, getting back to the reason I stumbled upon this case in the first place… the point is that there most certainly are mounting costs impacting U.S. businesses from increased environmental regulations, particularly in the areas of air emission controls and reporting. However advanced in situ technologies and creative combining of remediation approaches are allowing corporations to relieve themselves of the costly burden associated with ongoing groundwater treatment systems at impacted properties.  In the specific case of this Wisconsin manufacturing facility, the Symbiont team undoubtedly saved their client millions of dollars in operating and maintenance costs.  Additionally, they will have effectively relieved their client’s corporate balance sheet of a large environmental liability. That’s just good environmental management!