High Resolution Site Characterization: A Sustainable Risk Management Approach

Jan 9th, 2010 | By | Category: Environmental Management, Soil and Groundwater

Site investigation programs are known for their seemingly endless phases of assessment and high degrees of uncertainty due to the use of traditional investigation tools and approaches. High Resolution Site Characterization (HRSC) offers an alternative approach to site investigation that significantly reduces uncertainty and enables development of cost effective solutions to address identified risks.      

Through the application of proven scientific principles, investigation approaches, and characterization tools, detailed two- or three-dimensional conceptual site models are generated to support effective decision making.     

Conceptual site model showing the relationship between geologic conditions and contaminant distribution. Data were obtained using a membrane interface probe (MIP) in a detailed drilling pattern. Traditional investigation techniques did not identify the location of this complex trichloroethene (TCE) source area. High resolution techniques documented the actual zones of contamination, allowing for a more accurate and less costly remedial solution.

Benefits at New Sites

Where High Resolution Site Characterization programs have been implemented from the outset, complex sites have been characterized over a period of months, resulting in accurate definition of sources and plumes, and evaluation of various risks. The evaluation of risks, compliance with regulatory requirements, establishment of reserves, and initiation of remediation or mitigation measures can be completed both quickly and accurately – typically within one to two years of problem discovery. This approach has demonstrated significant reductions in business risk, stakeholder concerns, and life-cycle costs, in addition to improved safety and overall sustainability relative to more conventional approaches.   

Benefits at Existing Sites

Recent experience with High Resolution Site Characterization programs at sites with more than a decade of investigation and remediation history found that source areas were often overlooked in past investigations, potential risks to receptors were missed, and (not surprisingly) remediation programs failed. In some cases, these failures led to litigation and findings of substantial damage.  In all cases, significant amounts of money had been spent with little actual improvement. Conducting a High Resolution Site Characterization program at these mature sites enabled substantial progress toward a satisfactory and cost effective endpoint.    

Site Characterization Tools

Specialized tools and techniques are required to conduct high resolution work. For example, the overburden site characterization toolbox includes, among others:     

  • Gore Sorbers.
  • Membrane Interface Probe (MIP).
  • Laser Induced Fluorescence (LIF).
  • Cone Penetrometer (CPT).
  • Waterloo Advanced Profiling System (APS).
  • Sonic drilling.
  • Field laboratories.

When subsets of these tools are used together to produce collaborative datasets, high resolution conceptual site models can be efficiently generated.    

About the Author

Joe Fiacco is an environmental consultant and partner at Environmental Resources Management in Boston, U.S.A. He specializes in high resolution characterization of both overburden and fractured bedrock contaminated sites. The majority of his experience involves the characterization and remediation of sites impacted by chlorinated solvents, with additional experience at petroleum and landfill sites.

2 Comments to “High Resolution Site Characterization: A Sustainable Risk Management Approach”

  1. Anna says:

    Great article, very interesting and helpful information about HRSC and conceptual site models.

  2. […] Joe Fiacco is an environmental consultant and partner at Environmental Resources Management in Boston, U.S.A. He specializes in high resolution characterization of both overburden and fractured bedrock contaminated sites. The majority of his experience involves the characterization and remediation of sites impacted by chlorinated solvents, with additional experience at petroleum and landfill sites. Also by Joe Fiacco in the EHS Journal: High Resolution Site Characterization: A Sustainable Risk Management Approach […]

Leave a Comment