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Alternatives for Ground Water Cleanup Alternatives for Ground Water Cleanup Committee on Ground Water Cleanup Alternatives Water Science and Technology Board Board on Radioactive Waste Management Commission on Geosciences, Environment, and Resources NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS Washington, D.C. 1994
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Alternatives for Ground Water Cleanup National Academy Press 2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20418 NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance. This report has been reviewed by a group other than the authors according to procedures approved by a Report Review Committee consisting of members of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. Support for this project was provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under Agreement No. CR 818700-01-0, the U.S. Department of Energy under Agreement Nos. DE-AL01-89DP48070 and DE-AC01-89DP8070, Chevron USA, Inc., and the Coalition on Superfund. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Alternatives for ground water cleanup / Committee on Ground Water Cleanup Alternatives, Water Science and Technology Board, Board on Radioactive Waste Management, Commission on Geosciences, Environment, and Resources, National Research Council. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0-309-04994-6 1. Groundwater—Purification. I. National Research Council (U.S.). Committee on Ground Water Cleanup Alternatives. TD426.A48 1994 363.73'94—dc20 94-29573 CIP Cover art by Y. David Chung. Title design by Rumen Buzatov. Chung and Buzatov are graduates of the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C. Chung has exhibited widely throughout the country, including at the Whitney Museum in New York, the Washington Project for the Arts in Washington, D.C., and the Williams College Museum of Art in Williamstown, Massachusetts. The cover illustration shows how the elements of weather, geography, and underground strata all combine to affect our ground water. Copyright 1994 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America First Printing, June 1994 Second Printing, July 1995
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Alternatives for Ground Water Cleanup COMMITTEE ON GROUND WATER CLEANUP ALTERNATIVES MICHAEL C. KAVANAUGH, Chair, ENVIRON Corporation, Emeryville, California JAMES W. MERCER, Vice-Chair, GeoTrans, Inc., Sterling, Virginia LINDA M. ABRIOLA, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor CHARLES B. ANDREWS, S.S. Papadopulos & Associates, Inc., Bethesda, Maryland MARY JO BAEDECKER, U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, Virginia EDWARD J. BOUWER, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland PATRICIA A. BUFFLER, University of California, Berkeley ROBERT E. CONNICK, University of California, Berkeley RICHARD A. CONWAY, Union Carbide Corporation, South Charleston, West Virginia RALPH C. D'ARGE, University of Wyoming, Laramie LINDA E. GREER, Natural Resources Defense Council, Washington, D.C. JOSEPH H. HIGHLAND, ENVIRON Corporation, Princeton, New Jersey DOUGLAS M. MACKAY, Centre for Groundwater Research, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada GLENN PAULSON, Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, liaison to the Board on Radioactive Waste Management LYNNE M. PRESLO, ICF-Kaiser Engineers, Oakland, California PAUL V. ROBERTS, Stanford University, Stanford, California WILLIAM J. WALSH, Pepper, Hamilton & Scheetz, Washington, D.C. C. HERB WARD, Rice University, Houston, Texas MARCIA E. WILLIAMS, Williams & Vanino, Inc., Los Angeles, California Staff JACQUELINE A. MACDONALD, Study Director GREGORY K. NYCE, Senior Project Assistant ANGELA F. BRUBAKER, Project Assistant GREICY AMJADIVALA, Project Assistant GEORGE Z. HORNBERGER, Intern CINDY F. KLEIMAN, Technical Consultant GINO BIANCHI-MOSQUERA, Technical Consultant
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Alternatives for Ground Water Cleanup WATER SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY BOARD DANIEL A. OKUN, Chair, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill A. DAN TARLOCK, Vice-Chair, Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago-Kent College of Law, Chicago J. DAN ALLEN, Chevron USA, Inc., New Orleans, Louisiana PATRICK L. BREZONIK, University of Minnesota, St. Paul KENNETH D. FREDERICK, Resources for the Future, Washington, D.C. DAVID L. FREYBERG, Stanford University, Stanford, California WILFORD R. GARDNER, University of California, Berkeley WILLIAM L. GRAF, Arizona State University, Tempe THOMAS M. HELLMAN, Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, New York, New York ROBERT J. HUGGETT, College of William and Mary, Gloucester Point, Virginia CHARLES C. JOHNSON, Consultant, Bethesda, Maryland WILLIAM M. LEWIS, JR., University of Colorado, Boulder CAROLYN H. OLSEN, Brown and Caldwell, Atlanta, Georgia CHARLES R. O'MELIA, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland STAVROS S. PAPADOPULOS, S.S. Papadopulos & Associates, Inc., Bethesda, Maryland BRUCE E. RITTMANN, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois JOY B. ZEDLER, San Diego State University, San Diego, California Staff STEPHEN D. PARKER, Staff Director SARAH CONNICK, Senior Staff Officer SHEILA D. DAVID, Senior Staff Officer CHRIS ELFRING, Senior Staff Officer GARY D. KRAUSS, Staff Officer JACQUELINE A. MACDONALD, Staff Officer M. JEANNE AQUILINO, Administrative Associate ANITA A. HALL, Administrative Assistant GREGORY K. NYCE, Senior Project Assistant MARY BETH MORRIS, Senior Project Assistant ANGELA F. BRUBAKER, Project Assistant
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Alternatives for Ground Water Cleanup BOARD ON RADIOACTIVE WASTE MANAGEMENT CHRIS G. WHIPPLE, Chair, Kaiser Engineers, Oakland, California CHARLES FAIRHURST, Vice-Chair, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis JOHN F. AHEARNE, Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina COLIN J. ALLAN, Whiteshell Laboratory, Pinawa, Manitoba, Canada JEAN M. BAHR, University of Wisconsin, Madison LYNDA BROTHERS, Davis Wright Tremaine, Seattle, Washington SOL BURSTEIN, Milwaukee, Wisconsin MELVIN W. CARTER, Atlanta, Georgia CARON CHESS, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey E. WILLIAM COLGLAZIER, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C. PAUL P. CRAIG, University of California, Davis B. JOHN GARRICK, PLG, Inc., Newport Beach, California ROBERT D. HATCHER, University of Tennessee, Knoxville PERRY L. McCARTY, Stanford University, Stanford, California FRED W. McLAFFERTY, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York H. ROBERT MEYER, Keystone Scientific, Inc., Fort Collins, Colorado D. KIRK NORDSTROM, U.S. Geological Survey, Boulder, Colorado GLENN PAULSON, Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago Staff CARL A. ANDERSON, Staff Director PETER B. MYERS, Staff Director, retired April 30, 1993 INA B. ALTERMAN, Senior Staff Officer ROBERT S. ANDREWS, Senior Staff Officer KARYANIL T. THOMAS, Senior Staff Officer DANA CAINES, Administrative Associate VERNA BOWEN, Administrative Assistant LISA CLENDENING, Administrative Assistant GAYLENE DUMOUCHEL, Administrative Assistant REBECCA BURKA, Project Assistant DENNIS DuPREE, Project Assistant ELIZABETH LANDRIGAN, Project Assistant
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Alternatives for Ground Water Cleanup COMMISSION ON GEOSCIENCES, ENVIRONMENT, AND RESOURCES M. GORDON WOLMAN, Chair, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland PATRICK R. ATKINS, Aluminum Company of America, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania PETER EAGLESON, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge EDWARD A. FRIEMAN, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California W. BARCLAY KAMB, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena JACK E. OLIVER, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York FRANK L. PARKER, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee RAYMOND A. PRICE, Queen's University at Kingston, Ontario, Canada THOMAS C. SCHELLING, University of Maryland, College Park LARRY L. SMARR, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign STEVEN M. STANLEY, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland VICTORIA J. TSCHINKEL, Landers and Parsons, Tallahassee, Florida WARREN WASHINGTON, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado EDITH BROWN WEISS, Georgetown University Law Center, Washington, D.C. Staff STEPHEN RATTIEN, Executive Director STEPHEN D. PARKER, Associate Executive Director MORGAN GOPNIK, Assistant Executive Director JEANETTE SPOON, Administrative Officer SANDI FITZPATRICK, Administrative Associate ROBIN ALLEN, Senior Project Assistant
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Alternatives for Ground Water Cleanup Preface "A little water clears us of this deed" Macbeth, Act II, ii Over the past 15 years, evidence has accumulated that the nation's ground water resource, which supplies more than 50 percent of the population's drinking water, is threatened not only by excessive overdrafts but also by contamination caused by past and present industrial, agricultural, and commercial activities. In the United States, it is estimated that more than 300,000 sites may have contaminated soil or ground water requiring some form of remediation (see Table 1-2 in Chapter 1). The potential cost of these remedial activities may be as large as $750 billion in 1993 dollars to be spent over the next 20 to 30 years (see Chapter 1). The magnitude of the problem may be equally significant in other industrialized countries. The U.S. public response to this growing perception of a threatened resource with unknown human health and ecological impacts has generally been to demand restoration of the ground water to drinking water standards (although the cleanup goal varies with the site, as discussed in Chapter 6). This goal of restoration to drinking water standards is currently the primary driver of ground water remediation activities at most sites regulated under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980, also known as the Superfund act. Restoration to potable standards has also been the goal at other sites regulated under state laws and in some cases at sites regulated under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The technological response to these statutory and regulatory demands over the past decade has almost exclusively been the application
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Alternatives for Ground Water Cleanup of so-called "pump-and-treat" technology. Simply put, this technology involves extracting water from the ground below the water table using standard water-well technology. The extracted and contaminated water is then treated with established above-ground technologies such as air stripping or adsorption on granular activated carbon. In essence, pump-and-treat technology attempts to flush out the contaminants and to return the contaminated area to a condition in which water drawn from wells will meet drinking water standards without further treatment. However, in contrast to the suggestion from Lady Macbeth quoted above, a very large amount of water is often required to flush out even modest amounts of contaminants, and the amount of water required to rid a site of contamination is often unimaginably large. In essence, the United States has been conducting a large-scale national testing program to determine if restoration of contaminated aquifers is achievable within reasonable time frames and at an affordable cost. The exact number of pump-and-treat systems currently in operation in the United States is unknown, but it may well exceed 3,000. A sufficient history of operation of this technology now exists to assess its efficacy. Unfortunately, and some would say not surprisingly, the effectiveness of this technology to restore contaminated aquifers seems quite limited. This has led to a widely held view that pump-and-treat is a failed technology and should be rejected as a technique for ground water remediation. Thus, the United States and other industrialized nations, as well as developing nations, are confronted with a major dilemma: how to protect human health and the environment from contaminated ground water without wasting resources pursuing technical strategies that appear unable to achieve agreed-upon societal goals. A further significant problem is how to convey these technical limitations to a public that has grown increasingly skeptical of technologists. In response to this dilemma, the National Research Council (NRC) established a committee of experts to analyze the major technical and public policy issues arising from technical limits to aquifer remediation. The Committee on Ground Water Cleanup Alternatives was established through two boards within the NRC: the Water Science and Technology Board and the Board on Radioactive Waste Management. Financial support for this effort was provided by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Energy (DOE), the Coalition on Superfund, and Chevron Corporation. The boards chose 19 experts to serve on the committee, representing a broad range of scientific and technical disciplines and stakeholders in the debate over ground water remediation. The scope of the committee's charge included the following questions:
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Alternatives for Ground Water Cleanup What are the capabilities of pump-and-treat systems? What are the limits, if any, to contaminant removal from the subsurface? What are the capabilities of alternative or innovative technologies for subsurface remediation, and what, if any, are the barriers to the use of these technologies? What are the socioeconomic consequences of the possible failure of ground water remediation? What are the possible alternative goals for ground water remediation, and what factors should be considered in setting those goals? What policy alternatives should be pursued to reflect the technical limitations to aquifer remediation? The committee undertook a thorough evaluation of existing information related to subsurface remediation. During nine meetings held over the past two years, the committee heard reports from numerous private and public groups on all aspects of ground water and soil remediation. Prominent among these were presentations by policy analysts from the EPA's Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (including its Technology Innovation Office), technical specialists from the EPA's Ada, Oklahoma, ground water research laboratory, researchers working on DOE efforts to deal with ground water and soil contamination at DOE facilities, and DOE employees working on technology development for environmental restoration. The committee also solicited views of industry trade groups, consultants, contractors, impacted parties, and environmental groups. Finally, the committee relied on the in-depth experience and expertise of the committee members, most of whom are recognized leaders in the technical, economic, risk, and policy debates surrounding this complex subject. Although the committee was able to review data from only a small number of sites (approximately 80) where pump-and-treat systems have been installed, there was strong consensus that these sites represented the range of conditions encountered at the majority of sites with contaminated ground water. One dominant characteristic that surfaced in all cases was the high degree of uncertainty associated with the task of subsurface remediation. These uncertainties begin with limitations on site characterization and the ability to identify the nature and extent of the contamination in complex, multilayered, and heterogeneous geologic environments, in which key physical, chemical, or biological characteristics can vary by orders of magnitude on the scale of centimeters. They end with uncertainties about the efficacy of any subsurface remediation technology selected for the task in the face of this highly uncertain hydrogeologic and geochemical environment. In between these end points, the
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Alternatives for Ground Water Cleanup difficult selection of appropriate remedial actions becomes exceedingly complex due to uncertainties in analytical models used to predict the fate and transport of contaminants and uncertainties in the science of risk assessment. The problem becomes even more intractable when these uncertainties are injected into the litigious environment that exists in the United States. This unusual degree of uncertainty significantly complicates debates about the technical, institutional, and public policy strategies that should be pursued to resolve ground water contamination. The document that follows provides in my view the most comprehensive treatment of the issues arising from technical and institutional limitations on ground water remediation yet available. Six subcommittees chaired by committee members prepared the various chapters in the report; lively debates characterized the later committee meetings as the members reviewed and discussed the subcommittees' chapters. Given the diversity of opinions and backgrounds of committee members, it was a pleasant surprise that we were able to reach a consensus on almost all issues. I wish to acknowledge the significant efforts by committee members, all of whom are heavily overcommitted but nevertheless found the time to make important contributions to the document under friendly but persistent prodding from the Water Science and Technology Board staff. As with all such reports prepared under the auspices of the NRC, the success of the report is heavily dependent on the skills, dedication, and energy of the staff officer assigned to a committee. In this case, the Committee on Ground Water Cleanup Alternatives was extremely fortunate to have the services of Jackie MacDonald, whose contributions throughout the report are extensive. Aside from the overall management and tracking of each version of chapters or sections of chapters, Jackie demonstrated her very considerable editing skills in preparing or extensively rewriting significant sections of the report and in helping to make the report read in a consistent and comprehensible style, as opposed to sounding like a report written by 19 people. Jackie's attention to detail, persistence, enthusiasm, and commitment to hard work are inspiring, and much of the credit for the success of this document is owed to her. Thanks are also due to several others who assisted in this project. Greg Nyce and Greicy Amjadivala efficiently managed logistical arrangements for the committee meetings. Angela Brubaker prepared the report manuscript for publication, improving the editorial details in numerous ways. Cindy Kleiman prepared technical reviews of the ecological risks of ground water contamination and analyses of alternative ground water cleanup goals. Gino Bianchi-Mosquera was responsible for much of the legwork in analyzing data from the sites listed in Appendix A and used to prepare the case studies in Chapter 3.
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Alternatives for Ground Water Cleanup Finally, I wish to again acknowledge the many long hours that committee members must have spent researching, writing, and revising their contributions. I have enjoyed immensely the opportunity to work with such a talented and articulate group of professionals. I hope the reader will agree that the committee has done its task well. MICHAEL C. KAVANAUGH, CHAIR COMMITTEE ON GROUND WATER CLEANUP ALTERNATIVES
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Alternatives for Ground Water Cleanup The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Robert M. White is president of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Kenneth I. Shine is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy's purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts and Dr. Robert M. White are chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council.
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Alternatives for Ground Water Cleanup Contents EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 1 1 THE GROUND WATER CLEANUP CONTROVERSY 19 History of Ground Water Cleanup 21 Magnitude of the Problem 24 Capabilities of Cleanup Technologies 29 The Potential Conflict Between Technology and Policy 31 Notes 33 References 33 BOXES Ground Water Cleanup in South Brunswick Township, New Jersey: Symbol of a Broader Problem 20 The Many Varieties of Pump-and-Treat Systems 30 2 COMPLEXITY OF THE CONTAMINATED SUBSURFACE 35 The Subsurface Environment 35 Contaminants in Ground Water 46 Spatial Variability 66 Research Needs for Improving Understanding of the Contaminated Subsurface 72 Conclusions 76 References 77 BOX Complexity of the Contaminated Subsurface: A Hypothetical Example 36
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Alternatives for Ground Water Cleanup 3 PERFORMANCE OF CONVENTIONAL PUMP-AND-TREAT SYSTEMS 80 How Pump-and-Treat Systems Work 81 Previous Studies of Pump-and-Treat Systems 82 Feasibility of Cleanup with Pump-and-Treat Systems 84 Categorizing Sites for Cleanup 89 Cleanup Times for Pump-and-Treat Systems 104 Improving System Performance Through Process Monitoring 113 Research Needs for Improving the Performance of Pump-and-Treat Systems 118 Conclusions 119 Notes 120 References 122 BOXES Complete Restoration of Ground Water Contaminated with Gasoline—Service Station, Unidentified Location 93 Restoration of Ground Water Contaminated with Solvents—Salinas, California 94 The Reemergence of a Contaminant Plume After Cleanup—Dayton, New Jersey 96 Cleanup of Dissolved Contaminants and Isolation of the Contaminant Source—San Jose, California 98 Containment of DNAPLs in Fractured Rock—King of Prussia, Pennsylvania 100 Contaminant Stabilization with a Pump-and-Treat System—San Jose, California 102 Pumping and Treating a DNAPL Site—Ville Mercier, Province of Quebec 103 4 CAPABILITIES OF ENHANCED PUMP-AND-TREAT AND ALTERNATIVE TECHNOLOGIES 125 Enhanced Pump-and-Treat Systems 126 Alternative Technologies 158 Importance of Combining Processes 164 Relative Effectiveness of Enhancements and Alternatives 164 Barriers to Implementation of Innovative Technologies 168 Research Needs for Advancing the Development of Innovative Cleanup Technologies 181 Educational Needs 184 Conclusions 185 Note 187 References 187
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Alternatives for Ground Water Cleanup BOX Treatment Train for Gasoline Cleanup—Long Island, New York 165 5 CHARACTERIZING SITES FOR GROUND WATER CLEANUP 193 Goal of Characterization 194 Plume Versus Source 195 Management Options 197 Data Requirements 198 Stages of Site Characterization and Management 208 Research Needs 210 Conclusions 211 References 212 6 SETTING GOALS FOR GROUND WATER CLEANUP 213 Current Cleanup Goals 214 Alternative Cleanup Goals 219 Health Risks of Contaminated Ground Water 227 Ecological Risks of Ground Water Contamination 236 Economics of Ground Water Cleanup 239 The Complexity of Selecting Cleanup Goals 248 Conclusions 249 Notes 251 References 251 BOXES Options for Supplying Drinking Water When Ground Water Contamination Remains in Place 225 Point-of-Use Treatment for TCE Contamination—Elkhart, Indiana 226 7 POLICY IMPLICATIONS OF A TECHNICAL PROBLEM 255 Components of Ground Water Cleanup Policy 256 Key Policies Addressing the Technical Uncertainty of Ground Water Cleanup 256 Implementation of Policies 265 Summary of Policy Recommendations 267 Notes 272 References 272
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Alternatives for Ground Water Cleanup APPENDIXES 275 A Summary of Pump-and-Treat Systems Reviewed in This Study 276 B Glossary 285 C Biographical Sketches of Committee Members and Staff 299 INDEX 305
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Alternatives for Ground Water Cleanup Alternatives for Ground Water Cleanup
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