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Hazardous Materials in the Hydrologic Environment: The Role of Research by the U.S. Geological Survey Executive Summary This report focuses on the programs in science and technology of the U.S. Geological Survey's Water Resources Division (WRD) that are relevant to hazardous materials in soil and water. In the United States, a massive effort is in progress to remediate sites at which hazardous materials threaten the environment. The science and technology programs of the WRD, with a heritage of over 100 years, contribute significantly to the national remediation effort by continually imparting new and credible understanding about soil and water contamination. This report attempts to help shape the overall framework of the agency 's research in hazardous materials science and technology, and identifies general areas of scientific opportunity. It is not a detailed critique but instead contains strategic advice to WRD management. The report was developed over a two-year period, during which time information was acquired and assessed and conclusions and recommendations were formulated with respect to: an overall research framework for the agency's pertinent programs, critical areas of research, educational opportunities, methods to evaluate research success, and approaches to improve coordination with others. This report reinforces the widely-held viewpoint that addressing the nation's hazardous materials problems is a large and challenging undertaking involving many entities in a cooperative fashion. Among these entities, the USGS has important roles to play. From a strategic perspective, the agency must affect a shift in emphasis from addressing basic questions in hydrogeological sciences toward solving generic applied problems as congressional attention becomes more oriented toward practical results and as additional methods
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Hazardous Materials in the Hydrologic Environment: The Role of Research by the U.S. Geological Survey for solving problems become available. This will require application of a risk-based approach for setting research priorities to assure that resources are directed to activities with the greatest potential benefits to public health and the environment. As part of this risk-based approach, priorities for research and the evaluation of research results must involve input from cooperating agencies and peer review of planning strategies and research results. Although relevant activities in the hazardous materials science and technology program are dispersed throughout the WRD, this study revealed no cause for significant reorganization. Nevertheless, the importance of both internal and external coordination and cooperation will likely increase in the future in response to strong pressure from Congress to increase productivity through interagency cooperation. In many cases this cooperation and proactive outreach will mean maintaining a keen sensitivity to the needs of those entities who are effectively consumers of research and information generated by USGS scientists. The characterization of processes relevant to the transport and fate of hazardous materials in soils and waters is a significant strength of the USGS. Long-term, field-based studies, for example, have been one of the agency's greatest strengths. This type of research should continue and be expanded to integrate methods to evaluate the effectiveness of remediation efforts. Such an approach will require continued dedication to research, together with the development and implementation of new modeling capabilities and decision-support tools. The USGS should lead the effort to perform the long-term assessments that are essential to both technology refinement and informed policy decisions.
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