In this presentation originally given at a workshop presented by NGWA, US EPA, and REGENESIS®, Rick Cramer, Director of Science at AECOM, discussed how a focus on the geology is imperative for understanding fluid migration in the subsurface. Using a National Research Council study regarding complex contaminated groundwater sites as his backdrop, his presentation shows how existing data and established geologic analyses can move groundwater remediation projects forward through an improved, quantitative conceptual site model. We are excited to announce that a recording of this presentation is now available.

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Video Transcript

So the question in my title, “Why Focus on Geology?” Well, I think Jim gave us part of one answer to that when he more than once said, “You can’t punch enough holes in the ground.” And I don’t know about most of you out there, but to me, that was bad news. I can see Regulator support something like that. And you know, to consulting firms, you know, that could be good news, that’s maybe a lot more revenue, but to responsible parties, that’s potentially a lot more costs.

So I think my presentation is going to generally be good news because what it’s about is how we can use more advanced geologic concepts to take existing data and define the geology, and the geology is really the subsurface plumbing. So that’s the one thing that this conference is on remedies, and what all these remedies have in common is you gotta deal with the subsurface and the complexities of the subsurface. You know, Jim said it’s dark down there and it’s always more complex than we think – the subsurface is. So, but one thing about it is that geology is stacked, so a better understanding of that plumbing, that subsurface plumbing. It was there before the release happened, and then sure, there’s a lot of changes in conditions down there, but the geology, no, that that’s static. That stays the same.

So, my talk is going to going along the lines somewhat of my career path, like Jerry mentioned. I started in the petroleum industry, but then back…the last time that oil went below $20 a barrel back in 1986, that’s when I lost my petroleum job and went into environmental consulting. I’ve been doing that ever since. But that experience had a huge impact and my focus in my career has been to bring better geoscience to our industry. So, an outline, I’m going to talk about why geology’s been marginalized in our environmental consulting industry and why does geology matter. And how we can unless the power of existing data using more advanced geologic technology and methods in our industry. And I am going to show that with a case study.

So, yes, this is a quick review of our industry, in the consulting industry, environmental consulting, it grew out of engineering firms. And so a case in point is how we define the subsurface. The standard is using the unified soil classification system, and as this slideshows, it was developed for engineering purposes. So it doesn’t maximize really the information, geologic information, that we have available on this subsurface. So that’s one example of how geology, just in the way our culture and our industry evolve, has been marginalized. And very first, it’s how we describe the materials in the subsurface. It’s way more engineering-based, but I’m going to show you that might be bad news, I’ll show you some good news on how we can extract a lot of good information from old data.