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Project Title:

Future Options for Management in the Nation's Subsurface Remediation Effort
PIN: DELS-WSTB-09-02        

Major Unit:

Division on Earth and Life Studies

Sub Unit: Water Science and Technology Board

RSO: Ehlers, Laura

Subject/Focus Area: Engineering and Technology; Environment and Environmental Studies

Project Scope
The National Research Council proposes to undertake a study to improve hazardous waste management at problematic 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, although the exact number, the rate at which that number is growing, and the percentage that threaten public water supplies is unknown.  The following questions would lead the work of an NRC committee convened to study site closure issues at contaminated subsurface sites.

- At how many sites does residual contamination remain such that site closure is not yet possible?  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 at most sites or to be able to extract groundwater and treat it for potable reuse?  What should be the definition of “to the extent practicable” when discussing removing contaminant mass from the subsurface?

- How can progress of source remediation be measured to best correlate with the risks at a specific site?  Recognizing the long term nature of many problems, what near-term endpoints for remediation might be established that would be beneficial and achievable?  Are there regulatory barriers or inconsistencies that make it impossible to close sites even when the site-specific risk is negligible?  How 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, 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 limited current (but not necessarily future) potential to restore groundwater be communicated to the public?

The project is sponsored by the U.S. Army Environmental Command.

The start date for the project is September 1, 2009

A report will be issued at the end of the project in approximately 32 months.

This SOT was slightly modified as of January 2010

Project Duration: 32 months    

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Committee Membership
Committee Membership

 Meeting 1 - 02/24/2010
 Meeting 2 - 05/20/2010
 Meeting 3 - 09/13/2010
 Meeting 4 - 01/24/2011
 Meeting 5 - 05/09/2011
 Meeting 6 - 09/13/2011
 Meeting 7 - 12/01/2011


Reports having no URL can be seen
at the Public Access Records Office
Alternatives for Managing the Nation’s Complex Contaminated Groundwater Sites