National Research Council Study on the Future of Remediation

The Water Science and Technology Board (WSTB) of the National Research Council (NRC) will undertake a study to improve hazardous waste management at sites where the presence of recalcitrant and/or poorly accessible contaminants is preventing site closure.

Nationally, there are thousands of such sites that require long-term management. A number of scientific and policy questions remain to be answered before site closure and long-term management of such sites can proceed, including:

  • At how many sites is residual contamination preventing site closure?
  • At what percentage of these sites does residual contamination in groundwater threaten public water systems?
  • What is technically feasible in terms of removing a certain percentage of the total contaminant mass?
  • What percent removal would be needed to reach unrestricted use or to be able to extract and treat groundwater for potable reuse?
  • What should be the definition of “to the extent practicable” when discussing contaminant mass removal?
  • How can progress of source remediation be measured to best correlate with site-specific risks?
  • Recognizing the long term nature of many problems, what near-term endpoints for remediation might be established?
  • Are there regulatory barriers that make it impossible to close sites even when the site-specific risk is negligible and can they be overcome?
  • The intractable nature of subsurface contamination suggests the need to discourage future contaminant releases, encourage the use of innovative and multiple technologies, modify remedies when new information becomes available, and clean up sites sustainably. What progress has been made in these areas and what additional research is needed?
  • Can adaptive site management lead to better decisions about how to spend limited resources while taking into consideration the concerns of stakeholders?
  • Should life cycle assessment become a standard component of the decision process?
  • How can a greater understanding of the potential to restore groundwater be communicated to the public?

The study is sponsored by the U.S. Army Environmental Command. An expert committee of 15 members will meet six times over a 24-month period and produce a report in late 2011. 

The members of this multidisciplinary committee are:

  • Michael C. Kavanaugh, Malcolm Pirnie, Inc. (Committee Chair)
  • William A. Arnold, University of Minnesota
  • Kevin J. Boyle, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
  • Barbara D. Beck, Gradient Corporation
  • Yu-Ping Chin, The Ohio State University
  • David E. Ellis, DuPont
  • Jerome B. Gilbert, NAE, J. Gilbert, Inc.
  • Tissa H. Illangasekare, Colorado School of Mines
  • Paul C. Johnson, Arizona State University
  • Moshen Mehran, Rubicon Engineering Corporation
  • James W. Mercer, GeoTrans, Inc.
  • Kurt D. Pennel, Tufts University
  • Alan J. Rabideau, State University of New York at Buffalo
  • Allen M. Shapiro, U.S. Geological Survey