High Resolution Site Characterization: A Sustainable Risk Management ApproachJan 9th, 2010 | By Joe Fiacco | 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.
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.