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Innovations in Ground Water and Soil Cleanup: From Concept to Commercialization (1997)

Chapter: 4 MEASURES OF SUCCESS FOR REMEDIATION TECHNOLOGIES

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Suggested Citation:"4 MEASURES OF SUCCESS FOR REMEDIATION TECHNOLOGIES." National Research Council. 1997. Innovations in Ground Water and Soil Cleanup: From Concept to Commercialization. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5781.
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4
Measures of Success for Remediation Technologies

Development and implementation of innovative technologies for ground water cleanup is shaped by many diverse and sometimes contradictory expectations of what constitutes success. While many industries, such as the automotive and aerospace industries, have developed uniform standards for evaluating product performance, no such standards exist for ground water and soil remediation technologies. Property owners responsible for site cleanup, citizen groups, state and federal regulators, and technology developers all may have different perspectives on how remediation technologies should be evaluated and selected. Reconciling the differing expectations of these stakeholders can add to delays in site remediation. A standard approach for comparing remediation technology performance could lead to a less contentious (and less time-consuming) technology selection process and possibly to improved acceptance of innovative remediation technologies. The challenge is to relate the success criteria important to the many stakeholders to specific technology performance criteria that can be measured or at least accounted for in some uniform way.

This chapter provides an overview of the many criteria that can be important to different stakeholder groups when evaluating ground water and soil cleanup technologies. The success criteria can be divided into three categories: (1) technological performance, (2) commercial characteristics, and (3) acceptability to the public and regulators. Table 4-1 lists the key success criteria, which are discussed in detail later in this chapter, in each of these categories. The rankings of high (H), medium (M), or low (L) interest reflect the committee's assessment of the average level of importance of each criterion to each stakeholder group. Technical performance attributes describe the technology's ability to achieve risk reduction goals and the efficiency with which it achieves these goals. Commercial

Suggested Citation:"4 MEASURES OF SUCCESS FOR REMEDIATION TECHNOLOGIES." National Research Council. 1997. Innovations in Ground Water and Soil Cleanup: From Concept to Commercialization. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5781.
×

TABLE 4-1 Stakeholders' Concerns About Remediation Technology Performance

 

Stakeholders

Technology Performance Attribute

Public

Regulators

Technology Users

Technology Providers

Investors

Insurance Companies

Site Workers

Technical performance

Reduction in health and environmental risk (contaminant mass, concentration, toxicity, and mobility)

H

H

H

H

 

H

 

Robustnessa

 

M

H

H

 

 

 

Forgivenessb

 

L

H

H

 

 

 

Ease of implementation

 

L-M

H

H

M

 

 

Maintenance; down time

 

M

H

H

H

 

 

Predictability; ease of scaleup

M

H

H

H

M

 

 

Secondary emissions and residuals production

H

H

M

M

 

M

H

Commercial characteristics

Capital costs

L

M-H

H

M

H

M

M

Operating costs

L

M-H

H

M

L

 

 

Copyright, patent restrictions

 

 

 

H

H

 

 

Profitability

 

 

 

H

H

 

 

Accessibility

L-M

M-H

M-H

H

H

 

 

Suggested Citation:"4 MEASURES OF SUCCESS FOR REMEDIATION TECHNOLOGIES." National Research Council. 1997. Innovations in Ground Water and Soil Cleanup: From Concept to Commercialization. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5781.
×

Acceptability to the public and regulators

Disruption to community

H

M

M

 

 

 

H

Disruption to ongoing site activity

M

 

H

 

 

 

 

Safety

H

M

H

 

 

H

H

Regulatory hurdles

H

M

H

H

H

 

 

Future usability of the land

H

 

M-H

 

 

L

H

NOTE: "H" denotes a high, "M" denotes a medium, and "L" denotes a low level of interest in the indicated technology performance attribute. A blank entry denotes no or very minimal concern about the particular performance attribute.

a Robustness refers to a technology's ability to operate over a range of environmental conditions.

b Forgiveness refers to a technology's sensitivity to operating conditions.

Suggested Citation:"4 MEASURES OF SUCCESS FOR REMEDIATION TECHNOLOGIES." National Research Council. 1997. Innovations in Ground Water and Soil Cleanup: From Concept to Commercialization. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5781.
×

characteristics are factors related to the costs of the technology and the profits it yields. Public and regulatory acceptance attributes are qualitative characteristics of technology performance that, in addition to quantitative technology attributes, are of particular importance to the public near the contaminated site and to regulators; to varying degrees, these attributes also may be important to other stakeholder groups. Chapter 5 provides details about how to evaluate technical performance of technologies. Chapter 6 describes how to assess commercial characteristics of technologies. Not all public and regulatory acceptance attributes can be measured quantitatively, but they nevertheless must be considered when developing a new technology.

To be successful, a technology must have strengths in all three of the areas shown in Table 4-1: technical performance, commercial viability, and appeal to the public and regulators. One remediation technology that illustrates success in meeting these three categories of criteria is soil vapor extraction (see Box 4-1).

STAKEHOLDER CRITERIA FOR SUCCESS

To be widely applied, a remediation technology must be not only a success in that it meets technical performance criteria, but it also must be accepted by numerous stakeholders who have an interest in the application of the technology. Expectations about how a technology should perform can vary widely among the key stakeholder groups: the public, regulators, technology users or consumers, investors in innovative technology, insurance companies, and individuals working at the site.

The Public

The key members of the public to consider when evaluating technology performance are those living near the contaminated site. Active local communities can and often do block implementation of remediation technologies that they perceive as unacceptable. The most important aspect of remediation technology performance for communities near contaminated sites is usually the degree to which the technology can reduce risks to community health and the local environment. For example, residents of Woburn, Massachusetts, became active in calling for site remediation because they believed there was an association between a cluster of childhood leukemia incidences and the contamination of two town wells with industrial solvents (Brown and Mikkelson, 1990). Along the Housatonic River in western Massachusetts, citizens have worked for years to address polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contamination of sediments because of the desire to maintain the river's value for recreation and harvesting of aquatic species (Ewusi-Wilson et al., 1995).

The cost of remediation may be a concern of the public at large, but in a community with a contaminated site (where remediation costs are rarely experi-

Suggested Citation:"4 MEASURES OF SUCCESS FOR REMEDIATION TECHNOLOGIES." National Research Council. 1997. Innovations in Ground Water and Soil Cleanup: From Concept to Commercialization. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5781.
×

BOX 4-1 Soil Vapor Extraction (SVE): Technology Success Story

SVE is an example of a remediation technology that progressed rapidly through the development and commercialization process because it met many of the criteria for success listed in Table 4-1. SVE systems have been selected for use at Superfund sites more than any other type of innovative technology (McCoy and Associates, 1993; EPA, 1996). They are in use at thousands of other contaminated sites, especially sites contaminated with gasoline from leaking underground storage tanks. Following are some of the key attributes of SVE technology that have led to its success:

Technical performance: In addition to a well-documented ability to reduce contaminant mass and concentration, SVE is easy to engineer. It is robust over a range of contaminant conditions; essentially, it works for any volatile compound. It is easy to design, and there are now many examples that can be used as the basis for future designs. It requires no sophisticated equipment or operators, so operation and maintenance are relatively easy.

Commercial characteristics: Because SVE requires no excavation of contaminated soil, capital costs are low. The simplicity of operation makes maintenance costs relatively low, as well. SVE is easily accessible because of the large number of engineering firms offering SVE design services. This accessibility has kept the price low for the end user due to widespread competition.

Acceptability to the public and regulators: Because SVE requires no soil excavation, community disruption is minimal. The technology is safe to operate. In situations where contaminant vapors have entered buildings, the ability of SVE to address these vapors is rapid and obvious, leading to a public perception of its benefit. SVE now has a track record of success in being approved by regulators and in achieving the regulatory goals required for site closure.

enced directly), there may well be an interest in identifying the most effective technology, regardless of cost. Members of the public who believe they have experienced health damage or who believe extensive natural resource damage has occurred may resent efforts by government agencies or responsible parties to minimize remediation costs.

Other factors important to local communities include the safety of the technology and the degree to which it will disrupt the community. For example, selecting thermal destruction or desorption may lead to air emissions of toxic

Suggested Citation:"4 MEASURES OF SUCCESS FOR REMEDIATION TECHNOLOGIES." National Research Council. 1997. Innovations in Ground Water and Soil Cleanup: From Concept to Commercialization. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5781.
×

byproducts (such as dioxins or furans), adversely affecting the neighborhoods near the site. Similarly, in situ flushing technologies may result in uncontrolled migration of contaminants to previously uncontaminated zones. Excavating contaminated soil and storing it on site while awaiting treatment can generate dust, which can increase exposure risks, at least for short periods. When there is a personal impact, such as digging up yards, encroaching on property, or creating excess truck traffic, the affected community members will carefully weigh these impacts against the environmental benefit of cleaning up the site. Because innovative technologies, by definition, are not used at many sites, public reluctance to accept an unproven technology may be as great as that of site owners or regulators.

Compounding the challenge of gaining acceptance of a technology is the public's realization that experts often disagree about the nature of risks, the degree to which a site should or can be cleaned up, and the effectiveness of a particular technology (Kraus et al., 1992). This lack of certainty, coupled with the fact that the solutions are being selected by nonresidents (regulatory agencies and those responsible for the contamination) often fosters distrust, not only of the decisionmakers but also of the technologies they propose. Community members are more likely to accept a remediation technology if they have been active participants in the investigation and remediation process. Because local residents often have historical knowledge of the community, they may offer valuable input during the early stages of site investigation.

Regulators

Regulatory agencies seek proof that a remediation technology can meet the requirements of the various statutes governing site cleanup, including the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (Superfund), the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), and the state-level equivalents of these two programs (see Chapter 1). These statutes are based on protection of human health and the environment, and the associated regulatory criteria are generally health based. Cost is also a concern for regulatory agencies, especially those at the state level. If responsible parties are local industries, extraordinarily high remediation costs may result in a threat to shut down operations and move out of state, resulting in loss of jobs and tax base. On the other hand, if revenues come from a state fund, high expenditures on one project may mean fewer dollars for others or, alternatively, may mean going back to reluctant sources to replenish the fund. This latter scenario has slowed progress in cleaning up leaking underground storage tanks; many of the state trust funds established to facilitate these cleanups ran dry before the cleanups could be completed.

Regulatory agencies are subject to substantial public scrutiny with respect to the efficacy of the technology selected, its cost, and the successful implementation of the technology, including holding to original cost projections for installa-

Suggested Citation:"4 MEASURES OF SUCCESS FOR REMEDIATION TECHNOLOGIES." National Research Council. 1997. Innovations in Ground Water and Soil Cleanup: From Concept to Commercialization. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5781.
×

tion and operation. Community disruption is a concern for regulators because community discontent often is directed at the agency. Consequently, regulatory agencies are interested in using remediation technologies that operate effectively over a range of conditions and are safe, because these have a lesser chance of producing embarrassing incidents.

Technology Providers

Technology developers and owners undertake their efforts in part because they are interested in solving complex problems that have real world applications, in part because they hope to profit, and in part from a conviction that the approach they have conceived can achieve objectives better, faster, or cheaper than the conventional technology. Sources of innovative technology vary. Basic science research conducted in the academic community and in government laboratories is the source of many innovative remediation technologies. Innovative technologies also have been developed by technology service providers such as engineering and consulting firms and by companies responsible for site cleanup, who then become technology users.

The market for innovative remediation technologies is highly segmented and profoundly influenced by laws and regulations. Laws and regulations create the impetus for agencies and private parties to undertake remedial actions, and, with some exceptions, government approvals are usually needed for the choice of remediation technology.1 Thus, technology owners have a significant interest in showing that their technology is effective in meeting the government's requirements. They also have a financial interest in promoting widespread use of the technology, which means demonstrating that it is applicable under a range of site conditions and competitive with other technologies that address the same needs.

Technology Users

Technology users (clients) are, in many cases, reluctant customers. As discussed in Chapter 2, those responsible for contamination may take a variety of actions to defer using any remediation technology. When all other alternatives have been exhausted and a technology choice must be made, remediation technology users usually focus primarily on meeting regulatory standards for risk reduction as cost effectively and expeditiously as possible. The technology user has a strong stake in the remediation technology working right the first time and is concerned about the technology's ease of implementation, robustness over a

1  

For voluntary cleanups, cleanups occurring as part of a RCRA interim measure, and some cleanups occurring under state hazardous waste programs, government approval of the remediation technology may not be necessary.

Suggested Citation:"4 MEASURES OF SUCCESS FOR REMEDIATION TECHNOLOGIES." National Research Council. 1997. Innovations in Ground Water and Soil Cleanup: From Concept to Commercialization. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5781.
×

range of site conditions, ability to handle variable waste streams, interference with ongoing activities at the site, and maintenance requirements.

Investors

Investors are most concerned about factors related to a technology's potential to generate profits. Venture capitalists, like technology owners, may be concerned about whether the technology can meet regulatory requirements. As explained in Chapter 2, at a more fundamental level, they may be concerned about whether the regulatory environment is sufficiently predictable that a market exists for the technology. A widely held perception among venture capitalists is that the present regulatory system creates incentives for responsible parties to delay making investments in technology, thus postponing until some future point the demand for widespread use of cleanup technologies (see Chapter 2).

Once a clear market exists for a technology, investors will be concerned about its affordability to potential customers and whether it is applicable to a wide range of site conditions. Specialized technologies with very limited applications may not be sufficiently profitable to attract investor interest. Investors may also be concerned about patents or copyrights. Innovations that are protected by patents or copyrights are attractive to investors because of the potential for licensing agreements, royalties, and other arrangements that may generate a significant income stream.

Insurance Companies

Insurance companies, when involved in site remediation, are most concerned about minimizing current and future liability. Factors related to current liability include the creation of residuals, safety (both on and off the site), and disruption to the community. To minimize long-term liability, insurance companies will want proof that the technology can reduce or eliminate health and environmental risks so that they will not face continuing financial liabilities. Insurance companies paying for site remediation will also be concerned about costs of the remediation technology.

Site Workers

Individuals working at the remediation site may include those involved in implementing the remediation technology and those who work at a site at which remediation is occurring but are employed in other activities. An example of the second situation is a RCRA corrective action site at which cleanup is taking place at an existing manufacturing operation. In this case, workers will continue to perform their manufacturing activities. This second group of site workers, many of whom may live in the local community, may be concerned about whether

Suggested Citation:"4 MEASURES OF SUCCESS FOR REMEDIATION TECHNOLOGIES." National Research Council. 1997. Innovations in Ground Water and Soil Cleanup: From Concept to Commercialization. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5781.
×

cleanup costs will be so high that they will lose their jobs. Both groups of site workers may be concerned about safety and risks to their health.

Roles of Stakeholders in the Site Cleanup Process

Contaminated sites became an issue for stakeholders in response to public outrage and media attention to environmental damage and suspected human health effects. At both the state and federal levels, regulatory agencies have established processes for making decisions about which sites are sufficiently contaminated that they must be cleaned up and for selecting cleanup technologies for those sites. Figure 4-1 is a flow chart representing the process used for decisions about remediation at Superfund sites. Similar processes are in place in many state-level site remediation programs.

The decision process is somewhat different for RCRA corrective action sites because ongoing operations take place at these sites. The primary difference is the absence of the national ranking and listing step that takes place under Superfund. In addition, interactions between the site owner and regulators during the remediation technology selection process are generally less contentious under RCRA than under Superfund. Instead of being specified in a legally negotiated record of decision (ROD), remediation technology selections under RCRA are included in the overall permit for treating, storing, and disposing of hazardous wastes as part of ongoing operations at the site.

Common to all programs like Superfund is a relatively complex and very time-consuming chain of events in which studies are performed and evaluated primarily by agencies and site owners. Although this lengthy process may meet the need of the regulators for order and accountability, it also often delays remedial activities. For example, at the site described in Box 4-2, final remedies have not yet been installed, although site investigations began in 1975.

In practice, the process of technology selection may be less linear than shown in Figure 4-1. For example, in the case of the Pine Street Canal (Box 4-2), an additional remedial investigation and feasibility study was undertaken in response to the public's overwhelming negative reaction to the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) proposed remedy. In the case of the Caldwell Trucking Superfund site (see Box 4-3), the EPA prepared a ROD following the public hearing, but public opposition to the ROD was sufficiently vehement that a modification was sought and approved. In general, the regulatory agency expects all of the parties responsible for contamination to implement whatever actions are embodied in the ROD it prepares. The regulatory agency commitment to a linear process can be a problem in itself; a linear progression constrains flexibility in exploration and may preclude acting effectively on data that are generated late in the process.

Stakeholders enter into the evaluation process at different times and have varying degrees of influence on selection of the final remedy. Table 4-2 lists the

Suggested Citation:"4 MEASURES OF SUCCESS FOR REMEDIATION TECHNOLOGIES." National Research Council. 1997. Innovations in Ground Water and Soil Cleanup: From Concept to Commercialization. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5781.
×

SITE DISCOVERY: A site is identified and reported to EPA, and the Superfund process begins.

PA-PRELIMINARY ASSESSMENT: The process of collecting and reviewing available information about a known or suspected hazardous waste site or release. EPA or states use this information to determine if the site requires further study. If further study is needed, a site inspection (SI) is undertaken.

SI-SITE INSPECTION: A technical phase that follows a preliminary assessment designed to collect more extensive information on a hazardous waste site. The information is used to score the site with the Hazard Ranking System (HRS) to determine whether response action is needed.

NPL RANKING/LISTING-NATIONAL PRIORITIES LIST RANKING/LISTING: A site is ranked using the HRS, a process that evaluates site conditions and determines whether a site should be proposed for the National Priorities List (NPL). The NPL is EPA's list of the most serious uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites identified for possible long-term remedial response. EPA is required to update the NPL at least once a year.

Suggested Citation:"4 MEASURES OF SUCCESS FOR REMEDIATION TECHNOLOGIES." National Research Council. 1997. Innovations in Ground Water and Soil Cleanup: From Concept to Commercialization. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5781.
×

RI/FS-REMEDIAL INVESTIGATION/FEASIBILITY STUDY: Two distinct studies carried out concurrently. The RI/FS is usually performed as the first phase of the Superfund remedial process for sites on the NPL. The RI/FS is intended to (1) gather the data necessary to determine the type and extent of contamination at a Superfund site; (2) establish criteria for cleaning up the site; (3) identify and screen cleanup alternatives for remedial action; and (4) analyze in detail the technology and costs of the alternatives at the Superfund site.

PUBLIC COMMENT: An opportunity for the site community and interested parties to ask questions about and comment on the remedial activities.

ROD-RECORD OF DECISION: A public document that explains which cleanup alternative(s) will be used at an NPL site. The ROD is based on information and technical analysis generated during the RI/FS, with consideration of public comments and community concerns.

RD-REMEDIAL DESIGN: An engineering phase of the Superfund process that follows the ROD; technical drawings and specifications are developed for the subsequent remedial action at a site on the NPL.

RA-REMEDIAL ACTION: The actual construction or implementation phase of the Superfund process that follows the remedial design of the selected cleanup alternative at a site on the NPL.

O&M-OPERATION AND MAINTENANCE: Activities conducted at a site once a response action is concluded to ensure that the cleanup or containment system is functioning properly.

REMOVAL ACTIVITIES: Intermediate Superfund actions taken over the short term to address a release or threatened release of hazardous substances.

COMMUNITY RELATIONS: EPA's program to inform and involve the public in the Superfund process and respond to community concern.

FIGURE 4-1 Steps in the Superfund remedial process.

Suggested Citation:"4 MEASURES OF SUCCESS FOR REMEDIATION TECHNOLOGIES." National Research Council. 1997. Innovations in Ground Water and Soil Cleanup: From Concept to Commercialization. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5781.
×

BOX 4-2 Pine Street Canal: Public Concern Leads to the Search for Innovative Technologies

Placed on the Superfund National Priorities List in 1981, the 70-acre Pine Street Canal Superfund site on the eastern shore of Lake Champlain in Burlington, Vermont, is the focus of considerable community interest. The site is bordered to the west by mixed commercial and residential neighbors and contains wetlands, surface water, and upland areas, some of which were created by fill. To date, no remediation technology has been selected.

The Pine Street Canal has been used for a variety of commercial and industrial purposes from the 1800s to the present. In the mid-1800s, a barge canal and turning basin were built to serve sawmills, lumber yards, a boat yard, and several coal yards. The site also hosted a manufactured gas plant that produced heating, cooking, and illuminating gas for the Burlington area from the late 1800s until 1966 (GEI Consultants, Inc., 1995). Other former or current operations include brush fiber manufacturing, helicopter manufacturing, magnesium casting, metal finishing, petroleum storage, and asphalt batching. The coal gasification plant has been identified as the primary source of contamination, but contamination likely resulted from all of the other uses as well (GEI Consultants, Inc., 1995). Site investigations have shown the primary contaminants to be benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes (BTEX); polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs); and metals (GEI Consultants, Inc., 1995).

In 1992, the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) proposed plan for the site called for dredging contaminated canal sediments, excavating contaminated surface soils, and placing the contaminated materials in an on-site confined disposal facility. Long-term hydraulic controls

primary decision points in the Superfund process and indicates, for each stakeholder, the degree of participation at each decision point. The term ''technology users" refers to stakeholders who are purchasing technology; in Table 4-2, that definition is expanded to include the subcontractors and consultants hired by the user to help generate data and recommendations as part of the decisionmaking process. In the language of Superfund, the technology users are called potentially responsible parties (PRPs), or responsible parties.

Table 4-2 shows that, except for the initial comment period, the level of public participation in the remedy selection process is generally low, in large part because there is no routine mechanism for public involvement other than the comment period. Participation of the technology providers depends on particulars of the site, but the point at which they have high participation is in the remedial design and remedial action stage. Both regulators and technology users have an

Suggested Citation:"4 MEASURES OF SUCCESS FOR REMEDIATION TECHNOLOGIES." National Research Council. 1997. Innovations in Ground Water and Soil Cleanup: From Concept to Commercialization. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5781.
×

were proposed for the disposal facility. Community opposition to the EPA proposal focused on the large volume of material to be excavated (R. L. Gilleland, EPA Region I, personal communication, 1995) and on the placement of the confined disposal facility in an on-site wetland. EPA withdrew its proposal in June 1993. The Pine Street Canal Coordinating Council was convened at that time and charged with recommending to the EPA a remedial plan for the site (GEI Consultants, Inc., 1995). Because this stakeholder involvement occurred after extensive work by the EPA, it was necessary to go back in the remedial process and repeat some steps.

Additional remedial investigation and feasibility study work has been carried out under a consent order. The public comments on the EPA's 1992 proposal resulted in suggestions for alternative remedial action technologies that are being assessed as part of the additional work; possible use of innovative technology was initially suggested in the public comment period. The statement of work requires the evaluation of various remedial technologies including those in the original proposal and "other non-intrusive engineered techniques, as well as innovative treatment technologies used at existing Manufacturing Gas Plant (MGP) sites and recycle/reuse options" (EPA Region I, 1995; O'Donnell, 1995).

Members of the Pine Street Coordinating Council have a shared interest in innovative technology. According to Lori Fisher, executive director of the Lake Champlain Committee and Coordinating Council member, each of the stakeholder groups on the council, the potentially responsible parties, the EPA, the state government, and the various community interests can see advantages to innovative technology. Fisher notes, however, that the site characteristics and the contaminants (BTEX, PAHs, and metals, which are commingled in some locations) pose significant challenges (L. Fisher, personal communication, 1996).

interest in all stages of the process, but technology users have minimal participation in the National Priorities List ranking (although they can appeal the ranking), which is a government activity.

Both the Pine Street Canal (Box 4-2) and the New Bedford Harbor (Box 4-4) cases are situations in which public opposition to EPA recommendations for using conventional technology has resulted in modifications to the decisionmaking process. When the decisionmaking process was altered and some steps were revisited, innovative technologies were given serious consideration. These cases suggest that if the public were involved earlier in the decisionmaking process as a matter of routine, the universe of remediation technologies considered at sites might more routinely include innovative technologies.

In summary, different stakeholders may have quite different concerns about the selection and use of a remediation technology at a given contaminated site.

Suggested Citation:"4 MEASURES OF SUCCESS FOR REMEDIATION TECHNOLOGIES." National Research Council. 1997. Innovations in Ground Water and Soil Cleanup: From Concept to Commercialization. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5781.
×

BOX 4-3 The Triumph and Caldwell Trucking Superfund Sites: Communities Reject Aggressive Cleanup Remedies

In the town of Triumph, Idaho (an old mining town of 50 residents near Sun Valley), residents have staunchly opposed a cleanup scheduled to occur under the federal Superfund program (Stuebner, 1993; Gallagher, 1993; Miller, 1995). The cleanup could affect the property of about a dozen homeowners. It would involve removal of soil contaminated with arsenic and lead tailings.

The cleanup level is based on total soil metals content. The community believes that this required cleanup level is inappropriate because community blood-lead and arsenic-urine tests revealed no acute health problems from heavy metals. Blood-lead levels are below the national average. The citizens believe the metals pose no threat because they are not bioavailable and that soil removal would provide no improvement. Consequently, there is continuing opposition to any mandated cleanup under Superfund. In this case the issue goes beyond selection of a cleanup technology to the point that the community wants no action whatsoever.

At the Caldwell Trucking Company Superfund site in Fairfield Township, New Jersey, the community rejected a pump-and-treat remedy to slowly decontaminate a plume of contaminated ground water in favor of a less expensive hydraulic containment system (EPA Region II, 1993). Industrial and septic wastes had been disposed of at the site, releasing significant amounts of tricholoethylene in both a shallow water table aquifer and bedrock aquifer. Migration was toward the Deepavaal Brook and Passaic River about a mile to the north of the site. The ground water is not used for drinking water. The EPA preferred remedy in 1989 was to pump and treat the entire aquifer system for more than 30 years to reduce contaminant concentrations to acceptable levels, recognizing that fully cleaning up the aquifers would take more than 100 years. This system would have required an extensive network of wells and piping to be maintained within the surrounding community.

Virtually all of the community's 100 members were opposed to the disruption that the pump-and-treat network would bring. Consequently, a modification to the record of decision was sought and approved. In the modification, a pump-and-treat system will be installed to treat only the most contaminated section of the plume, eliminating the problem of community disruption.

Suggested Citation:"4 MEASURES OF SUCCESS FOR REMEDIATION TECHNOLOGIES." National Research Council. 1997. Innovations in Ground Water and Soil Cleanup: From Concept to Commercialization. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5781.
×

TABLE 4-2 Level of Participation of Stakeholders in Various Stages of the Superfund Process

 

Stakeholders

Stage of Superfund Site Cleanup Process

Public

Regulators

Potentially Responsible Parties/ Technology Users

Providers

Investors

Insurance Companies

Site Workers

Discovery

L

H

M

PA/SI

H

H

NPL Ranking

H

L

RI

L

H

H

FS

L

H

H

M-H

Public Comment

H

H

H

M

M

ROD

H

M

M

RD/RA

H

H

H

O&M

L

L-H

H

H

NOTE: "L" indicates low participation, "H" indicates high participation, and "M" indicates moderate participation. A dashed entry denotes no participation by the particular stakeholder group at the indicated stage of the process. See Figure 4-1 for definitions of the stages in the cleanup process.

Suggested Citation:"4 MEASURES OF SUCCESS FOR REMEDIATION TECHNOLOGIES." National Research Council. 1997. Innovations in Ground Water and Soil Cleanup: From Concept to Commercialization. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5781.
×

BOX 4-4 New Bedford Harbor: Citizen Opposition Halts EPA's Cleanup Plan

New Bedford Harbor, in southeastern Massachusetts, has been on the National Priorities List since 1982 because harbor sediments are contaminated with high levels of PCBs. Community concern about conventional remediation systems raises the possibility that innovative technologies may be used.

New Bedford, once a vibrant port for New England's whaling industry, now has a high unemployment rate and an eroded industrial base. The city has a large minority community, and many of the residents are of Portuguese descent, with limited English-speaking ability. These factors have raised questions about environmental equity in EPA's interactions with the community (Boston Globe, February 13, 1994).

The first phase of the harbor cleanup involves dredging a 5-acre hot spot and treating the contaminated soils. The average concentration of PCBs at the site is 30,000 parts per million (ppm); concentrations range from 4,000 to 200,000 ppm. At the high range, samples represent a virtually pure PCB product (P. Craffey, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, personal communication, 1996).

EPA's 1992 proposal called for incinerating contaminated material excavated from the hot spot and placing incinerator residue in a capped landfill. Community opposition to the use of incineration was virulent and became the focus of intense exchanges between government and community activists. Opponents fear adverse health effects from incinerator emissions.

New Bedford City Council members accused EPA of bullying them into a cleanup plan they opposed. In September 1993, the city council passed ordinances prohibiting the transport of incineration equipment on

These concerns and expectations can be translated into success criteria that can be grouped into three categories: technical performance attributes, commercial attributes, and public and regulatory acceptance attributes, as described in the remainder of this chapter.

TECHNICAL PERFORMANCE

Technical performance attributes (see Table 4-1) comprise the first category of success criteria that can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of ground water and soil cleanup technologies. Technical performance attributes include the ability of the technology to reduce health and environmental risks by reaching desired cleanup end points. Also included in this category are a variety of factors

Suggested Citation:"4 MEASURES OF SUCCESS FOR REMEDIATION TECHNOLOGIES." National Research Council. 1997. Innovations in Ground Water and Soil Cleanup: From Concept to Commercialization. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5781.
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city streets and blocking electrical and water hookups to the incinerator site (New York Times, October 10, 1993). EPA in turn threatened the city with fines of $25,000 per day for impeding a federally mandated cleanup and secured a temporary order in the federal district court in Boston to block the ordinance preventing site access and utility service.

This downward spiral was halted when EPA, state and local officials, and community group representatives agreed to hire a mediator and to consider alternatives to the incinerator. The New Bedford Forum, a stakeholder group, was formed, and the group agreed on a set of criteria for selection of treatment technologies that included performance, availability of a unit to perform an on-site treatability study, cost, and past history.

The first step being taken under the revised plan is to conduct treatability studies. In early 1996, EPA announced that three vendors had been selected to perform treatability studies. The technologies to be tested are solvent extraction with chemical destruction; thermal desorption with chemical destruction; and in situ vitrification (P. Craffey, personal communication, 1996). These technologies were selected to represent a variety of possible approaches, and the EPA acknowledges that if none is sufficiently successful, another round of technology evaluation may be necessary. The dredged material is saturated with water and has approximately a foot of water on top, so all of the vendors may have to dry the material as a pretreatment step. The expectation is that each of the treatability studies will be performed for about a week at virtually full-scale, thus minimizing the possibility of scale-up problems for the technology that is ultimately selected (P. Craffey, personal communication, 1996).

Although EPA makes the final decision, given the history of the project and the agency's current commitment to the New Bedford community, it is expected that the final technology selection will have wide support.

related to the ease of engineering the technology, robustness, forgiveness, ease of implementation, maintenance and down time requirements, predictability, ease of scaleup, and residuals production.

Health and Environmental Risk Reduction

The fundamental purpose of a remediation technology is to reduce risks to human health and the environment. However, the relative degree of risk reduction offered by one remediation technology versus another is very difficult to determine because quantitative estimates of health and environmental risks at contaminated sites are highly uncertain.

Major uncertainties exist in determining which populations have been ex-

Suggested Citation:"4 MEASURES OF SUCCESS FOR REMEDIATION TECHNOLOGIES." National Research Council. 1997. Innovations in Ground Water and Soil Cleanup: From Concept to Commercialization. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5781.
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posed to contamination or are at risk of exposure. Table 4-3 and Figure 4-2 summarize potential exposure pathways. As shown in the table and the figure, there are multiple possible exposure routes. Predicting the degree to which each of these affects individuals near contaminated sites, or those farther from the sites who drink contaminated water or consume contaminated food, is a highly uncertain process, as illustrated by the complexity of the exposure pathways shown in Figure 4-2. Estimating contaminant concentrations to use as inputs to exposure calculations may involve significant uncertainty.

Adding to the difficulties in estimating the degree of health risk reduction achieved by a remediation technology is the fact that the complete profile of chemicals present at a waste site is frequently unknown. For example, after analyzing leachate at 13 representative sites across the country, the EPA was able to identify only 4 percent of the organic chemical constituents present in the leachates (National Research Council, 1991b). At many waste sites, a wide variety of compounds, such as solvents, fuels, and metals, may be present as mixtures. Determining the effectiveness of technologies against mixtures of chemicals, and the degree of health risk reduction that results when one element of the mixture is eliminated but another is not, can also be an uncertain process.

Further complicating estimates of health risk reduction, the toxicological properties of the contaminants, either singularly or when part of a mixture, may be uncertain or unknown. As of July 1993, the Registry of Toxic Effects of Chemical Substances contained 120,962 entries of chemicals known to have toxicological effects (Sweet, 1993). However, only 600 of the chemicals had undergone sufficient scientific evaluation to adequately document the specific effects on human health. Furthermore, health-based remediation decisions are based on cancer risks at most Superfund and other waste sites. However, populations are often exposed to contaminants at levels known to cause noncancer health effects such as low birth weight, birth defects, neurobehavioral problems, liver and kidney disease, cardiac anomalies, gastrointestinal distress, dermatological problems, headaches, and fatigue (ATSDR, 1994; National Research Council, 1991b). For example, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry found that the 5,000 people listed in its registry for past exposure to trichloroethylene in drinking water reported higher than normal rates of diabetes, stroke, elevated blood pressure, and neurological problems (Johnson, 1993).

Other factors also complicate efforts to determine the health effects of exposure to contaminated soil or ground water and the benefits of reducing this exposure. Even when health studies are conducted, detecting health effects for which there is a long interval between contaminant exposure and the onset of disease may be difficult. Uncertainty also results from the possibility that the comparison groups (those not living near the waste site who are used to establish whether a higher than normal disease rate exists in the population under study) may also have been exposed to contaminants from some other source, such as the work place. Factors such as smoking, poor diet, and absence of prenatal and preventive

Suggested Citation:"4 MEASURES OF SUCCESS FOR REMEDIATION TECHNOLOGIES." National Research Council. 1997. Innovations in Ground Water and Soil Cleanup: From Concept to Commercialization. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5781.
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TABLE 4-3 Contaminant Exposure Pathways From a Toxic Waste Site

Medium

Exposure Pathway

Air

Inhalation of air vapor

 

Inhalation of particulate matter

 

Inhalation of soil vapor (for example, in basements)

Soil

Ingestion of soil

 

Dermal contact with soil

 

Ingestion of plants

 

Ingestion of airborne soil

 

Dermal contact with airborne soil

 

Ingestion of airborne plant matter

 

Ingestion of waterborne soil

 

Dermal contact with waterborne soil

 

Ingestion of waterborne plant matter

Ground water

Ingestion of ground water used as water supply

 

Inhalation of vapors from ground water used as water supply

 

Dermal contact with ground water used as water supply

 

Inhalation of vapors from ground water in basements

 

Dermal contact with ground water in basements

 

Dermal contact with seepage water

 

Inhalation of vapors from seepage water

 

Ingestion of plants that take up contaminants from ground water

Surface water

Ingestion of surface water used as water supply

 

Dermal contact with surface water used as water supply

 

Inhalation of vapors from surface water used as water supply

 

Inhalation of vapors from surface water used for recreation

 

Dermal contact with surface water used for recreation

 

Ingestion of plants irrigated with surface water

 

Ingestion of aquatic biota

NOTE: Surface water may become contaminated via a variety of pathways, including runoff from the contaminated site, ground water from the contaminated site that discharges to the surface water body and waste lagoon overflow.

SOURCE: Adapted from NYS DOH, 1993.

medical care may bias the results of health investigations (National Research Council, 1994). The net result of these uncertainties is that opinions about the risks posed by site contamination vary depending on who conducts the health investigation and who interprets the results.

Like determining human health risks, quantifying risks to the environment and the level of environmental risk reduction achieved by a given remediation process is very difficult, if not impossible. Effects of contaminants may vary

Suggested Citation:"4 MEASURES OF SUCCESS FOR REMEDIATION TECHNOLOGIES." National Research Council. 1997. Innovations in Ground Water and Soil Cleanup: From Concept to Commercialization. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5781.
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FIGURE 4-2 Pathways of human exposure to hazardous wastes. SOURCE: National Research Council, 1991a.

greatly among species. In addition, contaminants may bioaccumulate in the food chain a small amount of contamination ingested by an organism low on the food chain can result in significant contamination in species at higher levels of the food chain. Further, wildlife risk assessments are based on the current limited knowledge of documented and/or predictable outcomes, such as tumor growth or subsistence capability. These assessments customarily consider only the ability of a specific species to survive, as opposed to evaluating the health of the species.

Suggested Citation:"4 MEASURES OF SUCCESS FOR REMEDIATION TECHNOLOGIES." National Research Council. 1997. Innovations in Ground Water and Soil Cleanup: From Concept to Commercialization. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5781.
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Using this approach may result in failure to observe a host of negative outcomes, such as reduced ability to reproduce, DNA anomalies, multigenerational effects, teratogenic effects, increased contaminant body burdens, and so on.

The public reaction to all of this uncertainty in risk assessment is complex. People who believe they have experienced health effects from exposure to contaminated sites may feel stigmatized or discredited, at both the individual and community levels (Edelstein, 1992). In addition, citizens often feel alienated and betrayed by government agencies when their concerns cannot be addressed and questions cannot be answered definitively. These public reactions can lead to distrust of agencies and rejection of remediation technologies for which exact performance and ability to meet applicable regulatory standards cannot be guaranteed prior to use, especially when local residents have not been involved early in the site investigation and remediation process.

Given the unknowns in fully defining the human health and environmental effects of contaminants in ground water and soil, the dilemma is how to define remediation technology performance in a way that is both quantifiable and relevant to the goal of preventing adverse effects. Obviously, under the ideal scenario the technology would eliminate exposure to the contamination by removing all of it from the site, or, for contaminated ground water, it would remove enough contamination so that the water meets regulatory standards for drinking water. As explained in Chapters 1 and 3, achieving these standards may not be feasible at complex hazardous waste sites. In addition, regulatory standards for ground water and soil remediation vary depending on the state in which the site is located, the regulatory program under which the site is governed, and the individual regulator who is in charge of overseeing the site. These technical limitations and regulatory variations make it very difficult to decide which standards should be used to evaluate the performance of a technology.

Human health and environmental effects of contaminants are the result of exposures of populations to a contaminant of sometimes unknown toxic effect through a pathway. To be successful, a technology must be capable of reducing the toxicity and/or intercepting or eliminating the movement of the contaminant along the pathway in some manner so that receptors are unharmed. Therefore, regardless of the regulatory program under which a site is administered and regardless of the degree of complexity of the contaminated site, the following four criteria should be used in describing a technology's ability to reduce risks posed by the contamination:

  1. Reduction in contaminant mass. The quantity of contaminants in the subsurface provides the best indication of the potential longevity of the ground water and soil contamination problem, and removing contaminant mass from the subsurface reduces long-term exposure to the contaminant due to transport through subsurface pathways.

  2. Reduction in contaminant concentration. Reducing contaminant concentrations reduces the level of exposure to contaminants and thereby diminishes the risk associated with that exposure. Reductions in contaminant concen-

Suggested Citation:"4 MEASURES OF SUCCESS FOR REMEDIATION TECHNOLOGIES." National Research Council. 1997. Innovations in Ground Water and Soil Cleanup: From Concept to Commercialization. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5781.
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tration often parallel reductions in contaminant mass, and contaminant mass is usually estimated form concentration measurements. However, it is important to recognize that contaminant concentrations may decrease (due to mass transfer and dilution process) while the total mass of contaminants remains unchanged.

  1. Reduction in contaminant mobility. Remediation technologies that immobilize the contaminants can effectively eliminate exposure risk even if the contaminants remain in the ground—as long as people are kept off site and are prevented from using contaminated water. The fundamental performance measure for remediation technologies that reduce contaminant mobility is their ability to prevent contaminants from returning to the zones of natural ground water flow. the zones of natural ground water flow.

  2. Reduction in contaminant toxicity. Remediation technologies can reduce contaminant toxicity by converting the contaminants to a less toxic or less bioavailable form. The total concentration of contaminants in a soil or waste deposit may have little to do with overall toxicity (Chaney and Ryan, 1994; Alexander, 1995; Ruby et al., 1996), because the toxicity of contaminated soil depends upon the bioavailability of the material when ingested. Surrogate methods such as leaching tests are commonly used to estimate the bioavailability of soluble toxic compounds in soil.

When using these four measures to assess risk reduction, a key question to consider is at what point the reduction in contaminant mass, concentration, mobility, or toxicity should be measured. For ex situ soil or ground water processing technologies, the answer is self evident: at the exit from the processing unit. However, for in situ ground water remediation technologies, the answer often depends upon the site situation and the technology. Often, technologies do not act immediately and completely at the point of application. For example, pump-and-treat systems may withdraw contaminants at the pumped well but also reverse or halt the migration of contaminants at a distance from the well. Biotreatment systems reduce contaminant concentrations along the contaminant flow path, downgradient from the point of introduction of substances that encourage growth of contaminant-degrading organisms. On the other hand, a permeable reaction wall may be installed close to the source of contamination or at a prescribed distance from the contaminant source depending upon the source strength, plume configuration, and cost of installation. In many cases, the location at which the technology is installed will be dictated by the capability of the technology and an assessment of the most cost-effective configuration. The configuration is also influenced by the environmental goals to be met at a point of compliance defined by a regulatory agency. The technology user and the regulator must agree on the appropriate location for monitoring technology performance: within the contaminated area, at its boundary, or somewhere in between, depending upon the technology and site-specific situation. This variation in the location at which technology performance

Suggested Citation:"4 MEASURES OF SUCCESS FOR REMEDIATION TECHNOLOGIES." National Research Council. 1997. Innovations in Ground Water and Soil Cleanup: From Concept to Commercialization. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5781.
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is measured can make it difficult to standardize performance reporting and to compare technologies. When comparing technologies, it may be necessary to specify the performance at the point of maximum effect and the distance of that point under some known (or standardized) flow or residence time condition.

All of these considerations must enter into formulating data needs and testing protocols used to judge the effectiveness of a technology.

Engineering Friendliness

Remediation technology performance is often described solely in terms of the ability to reduce contaminant concentration or mass in the subsurface. However, the ease of designing and operating the technology—its ''engineering friendliness"—can be the critical factor in determining whether a technology becomes widely used. Key factors related to engineering and operation of technology are robustness, forgiveness, ease of implementation, maintenance requirements, predictability, and residuals production.

Robustness

Robust remediation technologies are effective over a range of contaminant and site conditions. The operating environment, including not only the geologic factors described in Chapter 1 but also ambient temperature, volume and acidity of rainfall, soil moisture, and pH, varies widely across the country and with the season. Environmental factors may have a significant effect on the cost and performance of a remediation technology. Furthermore, experience has shown that site characterization information can be inadequate in describing site parameters and contaminant characteristics (National Research Council, 1994) and that technologies that perform optimally under a narrow range of conditions may not perform well under the particular conditions actually encountered once remediation begins. Waste stream variability is a challenge for off-site hazardous waste treatment facilities: despite the implementation of waste analysis plans and acceptance of discrete batches from known generators, receipt of incompatible waste has caused serious accidents, for example at solvent recovery operations. When cleaning up waste in the ground, challenges associated with waste stream variability are greatly magnified. A robust technology can operate effectively in a wide range of ambient operating conditions and can tolerate a wide range of variability in waste characteristics.

Forgiveness

Forgiveness describes the extent to which the remediation technology is sensitive to operating conditions. A forgiving technology will meet remediation goals even if there are fluctuations in the way the process is operated. If, for example,

Suggested Citation:"4 MEASURES OF SUCCESS FOR REMEDIATION TECHNOLOGIES." National Research Council. 1997. Innovations in Ground Water and Soil Cleanup: From Concept to Commercialization. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5781.
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operating temperatures or reactant feed rates or residence times do not have to be precisely controlled, the technology will have a greater chance of success under field conditions. Many of the successful soil and ground water cleanup technologies in use today (including vacuum extraction, air sparging, and aerobic bioremediation) are forgiving in nature. If a technology operates effectively only within a narrow range of conditions, its widespread use may be limited.

Ease of Implementation

Remediation technologies have variable requirements for site preparation and technology construction. Infrastructure needs, such as access to highways, electricity (especially if large amounts are needed), clean water, and wastewater treatment facilities, will vary with the technology and also with the site. Required operator skill levels and number of site workers also vary greatly among different remediation technologies. For example, for a process requiring rapid analysis of site data, using a field-portable gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer (GC/MS) may allow use of a dynamic work plan and thus yield time advantages over conventional remediation technologies. One of the tradeoffs, however, is that the field-portable GC/MS requires a highly skilled operator. When technologies require very specialized skills, delays in implementation can result from difficulty in obtaining an expert's time. The amount of time required and skills needed to prepare a site, move equipment to the location, make it operational, and then dismantle it when remediation is complete are criteria that decisionmakers take into account.

Duration of treatment is also a factor in establishing ease of implementation. Remediation technologies (such as conventional pump-and-treat systems) that require long periods of operation and maintenance present accountability and logistical challenges that are vastly different from those of a technology that requires little or no long-term care.

Maintenance and Down Time

Remediation technologies vary in their requirements for maintenance during remedial operations. For some technologies, scheduling down time in advance may be possible, creating an understanding that preventive maintenance is needed. Technologies that break down during operation not only cost valuable time but also may create an image of unreliability to clients, regulatory agencies, and the interested public, who may be scrutinizing remediation operations. A reliable technology is one that performs without down time during remedial operations or one for which preventive maintenance can be anticipated and scheduled at the beginning of operations.

Suggested Citation:"4 MEASURES OF SUCCESS FOR REMEDIATION TECHNOLOGIES." National Research Council. 1997. Innovations in Ground Water and Soil Cleanup: From Concept to Commercialization. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5781.
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Predictability and Ease of Scaleup

For innovative technologies that have undergone limited field applications, questions associated with predictability under the wide range of site conditions that might be experienced have an impact on commercial viability. Parameters identified above under robustness and forgiveness may affect the ability of a technology to perform effectively under different conditions.

Ease of scaleup refers to the ability of a technology that has performed well under bench and pilot conditions to be designed to perform at full-scale. Some technologies that are promising in the laboratory or are effective in small experimental applications may not operate effectively at full-scale in the field. This failure during scaleup may occur because the basic understanding of the critical processes governing technology performance is lacking or because laboratory hardware cannot be translated into field-size equipment. For in situ processes, large-scale variations in geologic structure may not be accounted for in smaller-scale experiments, causing unexpected problems in full-scale implementation. Uncertainty with respect to scaleup affects the viability of a technology for commercialization.

Secondary Emissions and Residuals Production

Many treatment technologies can produce secondary waste streams with their own risks. Examples are sludges from metals precipitation or volatile organic compounds from air stripping or soil vapor extraction. The quantity and character of these waste streams may greatly affect the environmental acceptability of the technology and the cost of using it. Often the technology user will carefully review a technology to determine if there will be unexpected costs associated with the disposal of secondary wastes. Regulators also review the potential for environmental problems that may arise from secondary waste generation. Minimization of secondary emissions is often a strong driver in the community affected by the remediation effort. The potential for producing health hazards, odors, or dust and the need for disposal of additional wastes at the remediation site can lead to strong community opposition. Consequently, the extent and character of secondary wastes from a remediation process must be understood and weighed against stakeholder concerns.

COMMERCIAL ATTRIBUTES

The second general category of criteria important in evaluating ground water and soil cleanup technologies is a technology's commercial attributes. Cost and potential for profit are critical considerations in the commercialization of any product, and waste-site remediation technologies are no exception. The commercial value of a technology depends on its cost competitiveness (its capital and

Suggested Citation:"4 MEASURES OF SUCCESS FOR REMEDIATION TECHNOLOGIES." National Research Council. 1997. Innovations in Ground Water and Soil Cleanup: From Concept to Commercialization. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5781.
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operating costs relative to those of other technologies used for the same purpose), the intellectual property rights that the supplier can hold secure, and, most importantly, the potential profits the technology may generate.

Capital and Operating Costs

The remediation technology provider must know the cost of the product in order to determine the market potential and the margin for profit. Cost is one of the most important factors in technology selection (environmental protection between alternatives being equal) for the private user and is also a factor that, by law, regulators must consider. According to the Superfund act, the primary criteria that must be balanced in remedy selection are long-term effectiveness and permanence; reduction of toxicity, mobility, or volume through treatment; short-term effectiveness; implementability; and cost (U.S. Government, 1990a). Similar factors must be considered under RCRA (U.S. Government, 1990b).

Stakeholders in the use of a remediation technology need to have a clear understanding of the full costs (capital and operating) of implementing that technology. The user and the regulator must know the cost in order to choose the most cost-effective remedy. The user must also know the cost to obtain the authorization necessary for funding. The technology provider needs cost data in order to determine if the technology will be competitive in the marketplace and ultimately to be able to sell it to a potential user. Uncertainty about the competitive niche of a technology can be a barrier to development or can lead to large expenditures for development of a technology that cannot compete. Consequently, having a good indication of the cost of a technology is important very early in the development cycle.

When a technology becomes available and ready for use, decisions are made about the cost effectiveness of the technology in a particular application. In order for a new technology to be considered for implementation at a site, consistent and reliable cost information must be available to decisionmakers. Traditionally, this information has been supplied by the technology provider or the consultant designing the remedy. Information in technical literature or from the technology provider is reported in many formats, which often makes it difficult to compare costs of competitive technologies without substantial development of information by the consultant to allow side-by-side comparisons. In addition, there is often a strong site-specific element to the technology cost, but often costs are presented with insufficient information to transfer technology and cost information between sites.

Uniform cost reporting is an essential element to facilitate the comparison of technologies and to speed the acceptance of new competitive technologies. The EPA has recognized the importance of cost in developing its Superfund Innovative Technology Evaluation Program (see Chapter 5) for testing innovative technologies. The "applications analysis reports" developed under this program have

Suggested Citation:"4 MEASURES OF SUCCESS FOR REMEDIATION TECHNOLOGIES." National Research Council. 1997. Innovations in Ground Water and Soil Cleanup: From Concept to Commercialization. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5781.
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attempted to standardize cost reporting formats to allow for critical analysis of costs. Similarly, other federal agencies, which are both users and developers of remediation technology, have recognized the need for consistency in cost reporting and are developing uniform cost and performance reporting guidelines under the auspices of the Federal Remediation Technologies Roundtable (Federal Remediation Technologies Roundtable, 1995). The Department of Defense is also trying to standardize cost reporting to aid in screening technologies. Despite these efforts, greater standardization is needed in the reporting of capital and operating costs, as is discussed in detail in Chapter 6.

Intellectual Property Restrictions

The impact of copyright or patent restrictions on a remediation technology's market potential varies depending on the interests of various stakeholders and their involvement in the decisionmaking process. Nevertheless, it is possible to make a few generalizations. The technology provider wants to have exclusive rights to market or license the technology for as long as possible in order to maximize the profit on the investment made in developing the technology. A patent provides its owner with the right to exclude others from practicing the invention for up to 20 years, thus allowing the inventor or developer to obtain a profit. An investor looks for a strong position in intellectual property rights when deciding whether to fund technology development. Technology users, regulators, and the public want enough information about the technology to be assured that it will perform effectively and efficiently. A patent sometimes acts to provide some of that security, but it may also limit access to the technology for several years. In addition, to the extent that proprietary interests may cause a technology supplier to withhold some information, the public may have less trust in a technology that is based on trade secrets than in one for which all available information is freely shared. Because trust is an important factor in risk communication, proprietary interests may affect the viability of a technology's public acceptance.

Profitability

Expectation of profit drives research and development as well as investment in innovative technologies. Continuing realized profit is the engine that maintains the ongoing use of a remediation technology and funds continued research and development. As discussed in Chapter 2, an investor will seek opportunities to fund technologies that provide the greatest potential financial return. Stakeholders other than the investor and technology provider have less interest in the profitability of a technology, except that they may want evidence that the technology vendor is sufficiently solvent to complete the remediation on a reasonable budget.

Suggested Citation:"4 MEASURES OF SUCCESS FOR REMEDIATION TECHNOLOGIES." National Research Council. 1997. Innovations in Ground Water and Soil Cleanup: From Concept to Commercialization. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5781.
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Accessibility

For a variety of reasons, a remediation technology may be inaccessible to potential users. In some cases, patents restrict access to the technology. For example, universities are increasingly holding the intellectual property rights to technologies they have developed in the hopes of supporting their programs through profits and licensing, but often they lack the administrative, legal, and financial structures to follow through with the details needed to support the license. In other cases, technologies are developed and used within the government sector, but because of poor communication or inability to transfer the technology to other users, the technology may not be easily commercialized. In some cases, small private firms may offer technologies that they have used successfully in a small geographic area but do not have the funding, staffing, or desire to increase the technology's use. If access to a technology is restricted, choosing the innovative approach over other, more accessible methods may be too time consuming and expensive for a potential technology user with an immediate remediation need.

PUBLIC AND REGULATORY ACCEPTANCE ATTRIBUTES

The third major set of technology performance measures includes attributes that, while not always quantifiable, may greatly influence whether a remediation technology is selected for use in a specific situation. Public and regulatory issues are intertwined in that public concerns often translate into regulatory action to meet the concerns. The types of issues that are most important to the public vary with the waste site. Major issues of concern to the public and regulators, in addition to those already discussed in this chapter, may include disruption to the community or ongoing activities at or near the waste site, safety of the remedy, whether using the technology will slow the cleanup by creating new regulatory hurdles, and usability of the land once cleanup is complete.

Disruption to the Community

Disruption to the community in implementing a technology may be a significant barrier to the acceptance of a technology in specific instances. Such disruption varies depending on the technology and can take the form of traffic increases, visual impacts, noise, odors, and load on the local wastewater treatment system. Other aspects of disruption relate to loss of natural resources or water supplies that may occur even though remediation is undertaken (see Box 4-2).

Another form of disruption relates to changes in the social fabric of the community that may arise from identification of a contaminated site, dissention over selection of remediation technology, and impacts on perceptions of the community and property values. On occasion, questions may arise about the need to employ a cleanup technology in light of the community disruption that may occur,

Suggested Citation:"4 MEASURES OF SUCCESS FOR REMEDIATION TECHNOLOGIES." National Research Council. 1997. Innovations in Ground Water and Soil Cleanup: From Concept to Commercialization. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5781.
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and the remedy may be modified to balance environmental needs against community concerns (see Boxes 4-3 and 4-4).

When remediation technology choice becomes the subject of debate, impacts will be evident in the editorial pages of newspapers and the outcomes of local elections and may affect long-standing relationships among neighbors.

Disruption to Ongoing Site Activity

Contaminated sites vary widely in their proximity to other ongoing activities, either on the site or in close proximity. Commercial operations under the same or different ownership may be taking place on the same site. Where there are ongoing operations, the choice of a particular remediation technology may be optimized for short duration of cleanup time or minimal visual impact, excavation activity, or noise. Technologies that involve excavation and transportation of large volumes of contaminated material will require attention to traffic patterns and timing to minimize conflict between the remediation activity and ongoing site operations. If the site is very small, a technology requiring few staff and modest equipment may be favored in order to avoid disrupting commercial or other activities. Activities and organizations off the site but in close proximity, particularly those such as schools or hospitals that involve sensitive receptors, also may be important factors in technology selection.

Safety

The perceived safety of a remediation technology to nearby inhabitants and the safety of workers performing the remediation can both affect decisions about whether to use the technology.

A community's perception of the safety of implementing a remediation technology can be crucial to the use of a technology. The concern about possible health risks from remediation activity often relates directly to secondary emissions or residuals. The community may seek assurances that any cleanup actions will not result in transfer of risks or creation of new risks. For example, citizen groups often are concerned that remediation involving incineration may result in generation of new pollutants as products of incomplete combustion (see Box 4-4).

Workers at remediation sites are under the jurisdiction of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and are required to undergo training in personal protection and emergency procedures. Some technologies are inherently more dangerous to workers than others. Implementation of technologies requiring excavation with heavy equipment, use of high voltage electricity in damp areas, and demanding physical labor by individuals wearing full protective equipment offer a few examples of situations that may result in injuries. In situations where remediation is

Suggested Citation:"4 MEASURES OF SUCCESS FOR REMEDIATION TECHNOLOGIES." National Research Council. 1997. Innovations in Ground Water and Soil Cleanup: From Concept to Commercialization. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5781.
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occurring on a site along with other manufacturing or commercial activities, safety considerations may affect a larger number of people.

To the extent that a user does not want to be associated with an unsafe technology and the provider does not want the liability problems associated with safety incidents, innovative technologies of questionable safety will not be favored.

Regulatory Hurdles

Many of the regulatory hurdles in technology acceptance are related to the attributes described above, because the regulator will endorse the use of a technology after reviewing the technology for its merits and deficiencies. However, other purely regulatory issues can also influence technology acceptance. These issues are primarily related to whether or not in applying the technology, the many operational and performance constraints imposed by regulation can be met without excessive complication or cost.

The Superfund regulatory process and its state equivalents are targets for criticism. Members of the public believe that their comments on proposed cleanup actions and technology choices are solicited too late in the process. Technology developers, owners, and users believe that the process takes too long and the outcomes are too unpredictable to drive markets for technology or to allow technology consumers to apply sound business principles in making technology choices. Providers of technology services are cognizant of regulatory hurdles for innovative technology, and this may explain why consultants often recommend that their clients use proven technology and avoid the potential for delay and the uncertain risks that may be associated with innovative technology.

Regulators have recognized that regulatory barriers may be playing a role in constraining the use of innovative technology and are developing a variety of programs to address perceived problems associated with innovative technology testing and demonstration (see Chapter 5).

Future Land Use

Use of land following remediation is a particularly important concern for the public. It is difficult for the general public to understand why the government spends millions of dollars to clean a site that still must be fenced in to prevent access. Technologies that produce residuals requiring strict limits on future land use will be less attractive to the public and site owners than technologies that require few limits.

In brownfield areas, sites where current use is unattractive or prohibited because of contamination are revitalized through remediation to create new possibilities for land use, including commercial and manufacturing activity, without necessarily restoring the site to its preindustrial condition (see Chapter 1). In

Suggested Citation:"4 MEASURES OF SUCCESS FOR REMEDIATION TECHNOLOGIES." National Research Council. 1997. Innovations in Ground Water and Soil Cleanup: From Concept to Commercialization. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5781.
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brownfield areas, site owners and future land users have an interest in technologies that achieve cleanup goals quickly and require few restrictions on the future ability to use the land for industrial or commercial purposes.

CONCLUSIONS

The overlapping interests and divergent expectations of stakeholders in contaminated site remediation form a complex web of shared concerns. In general, the affected public wants to "fix the problem irrespective of cost," whereas technology users wish to "fix the problem at the lowest possible cost." This divergence of views may explain a great deal of the acrimony that is associated with site cleanup decisions. Nevertheless, these two stakeholder groups have substantial common interest in remediation technology performance criteria such as ability to achieve risk reduction, predictability of the technology, safety, and disruption to the community and the site. Regulators act as a bridge between the affected public and technology users. Investors, insurance companies, and site workers also have interests that must be addressed to ensure successful technology application.

Achieving success in remediation depends on effectively addressing various stakeholder expectations in order to emphasize the points of common agreement. Any number of stakeholders can prevent the use of a remediation technology, so there must be substantial common ground in acceptance for a technology to be successful. Key factors that technology developers must consider when testing a new technology and evaluating its market potential can be organized in three categories: technical attributes, commercial attributes, and public and regulatory acceptance attributes. It is imperative that reliable and consistent information be made available in all these areas to all parties to allow the stakeholders to evaluate the acceptability of innovative remediation technologies.

RECOMMENDATIONS

To streamline the process of remediation technology selection and minimize acrimony among stakeholders at contaminated sites, the committee recommends the following:

  • The EPA and state environmental regulators should amend their public participation programs and require that public involvement in contaminated site cleanup begin at the point of site discovery and investigation. An informed public is better prepared to participate in the review of technology selection options and to consider innovative remediation technologies. Once site data are collected, the data should be made available at a convenient, accessible location of the public's choosing. While some members of the public desire short, factual data summaries, others may have expertise that equips them to review and

Suggested Citation:"4 MEASURES OF SUCCESS FOR REMEDIATION TECHNOLOGIES." National Research Council. 1997. Innovations in Ground Water and Soil Cleanup: From Concept to Commercialization. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5781.
×

evaluate the full studies, including laboratory analytical data and study protocol. To further assist the community, sources of toxicological and health information on contaminants of concern, as well as technical data collected from other sites where different technologies have been implemented and assessed, should also be provided. Anecdotal evidence suggests that innovative remediation technologies are selected more frequently when the public is involved early in the site remediation process.

  • The EPA should work to eliminate the preference for a linear process in remediation technology selection. Under Superfund, amending the ROD to change the remediation technology to reflect new data and advances in technologies is a cumbersome process. The process should be streamlined to allow for application of innovative remediation technologies if new performance data indicate that an innovative remedy is a better choice than the original remedy.

  • Technology developers should report the effectiveness of their systems in reducing public health and environmental risks based on the technology's ability to reduce contaminant mass, concentration, mobility, and toxicity. At complex sites, no technology can entirely eliminate all risks associated with contamination. In addition, determining the link between environmental contaminants and health and environmental effects is a highly uncertain process because of unknowns related to contaminant toxicity and exposure pathways. A technology can only reduce risk by reducing the magnitude and duration of the exposure of a target receptor to a contaminant. Consequently, these measurable, technology-specific criteria must be used as surrogates for environmental and health effects, regardless of the regulatory program under which the contaminated site is administered. Technology developers should report the range of uncertainty in these measured values to allow for meaningful comparisons of risk reduction potential offered by different technologies.

  • Technology developers and suppliers should specify the performance of a remediation technology at the point of maximum effect and should specify the distance of that point from the application of the technology under some known or standardized flow or residence time condition. Depending on the technology and how it acts in the field, the full effect of a technology may occur at some distance from the actual point of application. Specifying the point of maximum effect and its distance from the technology installation will improve comparison of remediation technologies.

  • Technology developers should consider public and regulatory concerns about remediation technology use when testing remediation technologies. While not subject to quantitative measures, public and regulatory concerns are important to technology acceptance. Even if a technology meets technical and commercial measures of success, strong public or regulatory objections may make it undesirable. Often these concerns center around site-specific debates, such as disruption to the community, but they may surface often enough that a particular technology is at a disadvantage.

Suggested Citation:"4 MEASURES OF SUCCESS FOR REMEDIATION TECHNOLOGIES." National Research Council. 1997. Innovations in Ground Water and Soil Cleanup: From Concept to Commercialization. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5781.
×

REFERENCES

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Suggested Citation:"4 MEASURES OF SUCCESS FOR REMEDIATION TECHNOLOGIES." National Research Council. 1997. Innovations in Ground Water and Soil Cleanup: From Concept to Commercialization. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5781.
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O'Donnell, M. J. 1995. Pine Street Canal Superfund site, Burlington, Vermont: Disapproval with modifications required of the additional feasibility study initial screening of remedial alternatives report, September 8, 1995. December 4, EPA Region I, Boston, Mass. Letter to M. L. Johnson.


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Suggested Citation:"4 MEASURES OF SUCCESS FOR REMEDIATION TECHNOLOGIES." National Research Council. 1997. Innovations in Ground Water and Soil Cleanup: From Concept to Commercialization. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/5781.
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Most books on ground water and soil cleanup address only the technologies themselves--not why new technologies are or are not developed. Innovations in Ground Water and Soil Cleanup takes a holistic approach to the entire field, addressing both the sluggish commercial development of ground water and soil cleanup technologies and the attributes of specific technologies. It warns that, despite cleanup expenditures of nearly $10 billion a year, the technologies remain rudimentary.

This engaging book focuses on the failure of regulatory policy to link cleanup with the financial interests of the company responsible for the contamination. The committee explores why the market for remediation technology is uniquely lacking in economic drivers and why demand for innovation has been so much weaker than predicted.

The volume explores how to evaluate the performance of cleanup technologies from the points of view of the public, regulators, cleanup entrepreneurs, and other stakeholders. The committee discusses approaches to standardizing performance testing, so that choosing a technology for a given site can be more timely and less contentious. Following up on Alternatives for Ground Water Cleanup (NRC, 1994), this sequel presents the state of the art in the cleanup of various types of ground water and soil contaminants. Strategies for making valid cost comparisons also are reviewed.

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