Guide to Community Actions that drive Brownfields Development

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) recently developed a Guide to help communities with brownfields to
more successfully address community revitalization and brownfields-related challenges.  The guide outlines concrete actions communities can take to address these challenges.

Through the three case studies described in the Guide, it is shown that attracting public or private investment for the reuse of brownfield properties can bring economic and social benefits to communities, in addition to improving environmental conditions.

The Guide provides details of the five steps for successful brownfield redevelopment:

  1. Lead with stakeholder involvement that empowers the local community to become redevelopment champions.
  2. Create a site reuse vision that is exciting and realistic.
  3. Remove barriers to brownfield redevelopment (i.e., expediting zoning and permitting approvals).
  4. Engage developers and end-users.
  5. Complete site preparations and close the deal.

The Guide also discusses opportunities for obtaining brownfield grants and technical assistance.  The U.S. EPA provides grants and technical assistance to local, state and tribal governments and nonprofit organizations. As of February 1, 2019, these federal government investments in brownfield remediation projects have leveraged $27.527 billion in cleanup and redevelopment funding from public and private sources and resulted in the creation of over 144,800 jobs.

PFAS Could Contaminate More Than 600 Military Installations, U.S. DOD Says

Written by The Environmental Working Group

The United States Department of Defense recently released new data showing that more than 600 military sites and surrounding communities could be contaminated with perfluorinated chemicals, or PFAS – far more installations than have been previously disclosed by Pentagon officials.

Details about the new facilities likely contaminated with PFAS leaked last week, a day after a House appropriations subcommittee hearing during which members heard heart-wrenching testimony from retired Army pilot Jim Holmes, who believes his 17-year-old daughter’s death from brain cancer could have been caused by exposure to PFAS-contaminated water on the base where he was stationed.

Holmes was joined at the hearing by EWG’s Senior Vice President for Government Affairs Scott Faber, who urged Congress and the Pentagon to accelerate efforts to clean up legacy PFAS pollution at military installations around the country.

Previously, DOD testified that 401 of its installations could be contaminated with PFAS, which have been linked to cancer, liver damage and harm to the reproductive and immune systems.

The updated list of installations identified by DOD can be found here.

The DOD’s use of firefighting foam made with PFAS, also known as aqueous film-forming foam, or AFFF, is the primary source of PFAS pollution at military installations.

(Note: Several of the installations where PFAS contamination is suspected include more than one military operation on the site, which is why some reports list the number of facilities at 651. When those locations with duplicate installations are considered, the actual number is just over 600 bases.)

EWG has so far confirmed PFAS in the tap water or groundwater at 328 military sites. Until recently, PFAS contaminated the drinking water of dozens of bases, and many communities near these installations continue to drink contaminated water.

Through Freedom of Information Act requests, EWG also discovered that many of the highest PFAS detections in the nation have been found on or near DOD installations.

In particular, within DOD documents, EWG found evidence of PFAS detections in groundwater at 14 installations that were above 1 million parts per trillion, or ppt, far above the 70 ppt drinking water advisory level recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency.

“DOD has failed to treat PFAS pollution with the urgency service members and their families rightly deserve,” said EWG’s Scott Faber. “We’ve all known for decades that PFAS are toxic, but DOD is still trying to understand the scope of the problem.”

DOD officials have understood the risks of AFFF since the early 1970s, when Navy and Air Force studies first showed the firefighting foam was toxic to fish; since the early 1980s, when the Air Force conducted its own animal studies on AFFF; and since the early 2000s, when the maker of PFOS, the main ingredient in AFFF, exited the market. In 2001, a DOD memo concluded that the main ingredient in AFFF was “persistent, bioaccumulating and toxic.”

“DOD waited a decade to warn service members and has been slow to switch to PFAS-free alternatives to AFFF or clean up legacy PFAS pollution,” Faber said. “What’s more, some DOD officials have argued for cleanup and screening levels that are less protective of our service members and their families than those proposed by EPA.”

The National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2020 included important bipartisan PFAS reforms, including a provision to phase out AFFF by 2024. But the NDAA fell short of what’s needed to address the serious public health risks posed by PFAS, especially PFOA and PFOS.

“In light of these new revelations, Congress should do much more to accelerate the cleanup of legacy PFAS contamination,” said Faber. “To do so, Congress should increase funding for programs like the Defense Environmental Restoration Program and designate PFAS as hazardous substances under EPA’s Superfund program, which will ensure that PFAS manufacturers pay their fair share of cleanup costs.”


The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.

UNBC professor receives $1.9 million to study oil spill response

Fisheries and Oceans Canada recently pledged $1.9 million to a University of Northern British Columbia environmental and engineering professor to further his research into improving oil spill cleanups.  Dr. Jianbing Li is leading part of a national project that is looking at methods to separate oil from water to make it more efficient and less costly to clean up marine oil spills. He will also conduct experiments to treat oily waste and convert it into useful energy.

The project began last fall and Li and his collaborators spent the first year reviewing regulations and technologies and developing experiments.

Current techniques for cleaning up marine oil spills involve collecting oily wastewater from the ocean and transporting it to shore for processing or disposal. Li’s research will explore ways to separate the oil from the water while the response ships are still at sea.

Among the tasks Li and his fellow researchers will work on include developing improved decanting techniques to separate oil and water, exploring how oily waste can be minimized and generate useful energy, and developing an integrated oily waste management decision-support system to assist in determining the best response for marine oil spill.

The federal funding will help support 11 scientific trainee positions at UNBC, ranging from post-doctoral researchers and PhD candidates to graduate students to senior undergraduate researchers.

In addition to assisting in Li’s research project, the funding will provide valuable training opportunities.

“This project will also assist in training the next-generation of oil spill response professionals. The experience our students will gain by working on this study will help them become highly qualified people in the field,” Li said.

A Review of the Emerging Treatment Technologies for PFAS Contaminated Soils

Two researchers from Charles Sturt University in New South Wales, Australia recently published a review of emerging treatment technologies for PFAS contaminated soils in the Journal of Environmental Management (255:109896[2020]). The article provides a comprehensive evaluation of existing and emerging technologies for remediating PFAS-contaminated soils and provides guidance on which approach to use in different contexts. The functions of all remediation technologies, their suitability, limitations, and the scale applied from laboratory to the field are also presented in the article as a baseline for understanding the research need for treatment in soil environments.

Perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are very stable manmade chemicals that have properties that allow them to repel both water and oil.  Chemicals in this class of more than 5,000 substances are found in products like nonstick pans (e.g. “Teflon”), waterproof jackets, and carpets to repel water, grease, and stains.  PFAS don’t easily break down, and they can persist in your body and in the environment for decades. As a result of their pervasiveness, more than 95 percent of the U.S. population has PFAS in their bodies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The article states that remediation of soil contaminated with PFAS is extremely challenging.  The most widely used method to manage PFAS contaminated soil is the immobilization method.   Immobilization methods that are generally less expensive and disruptive to the natural landscape, hydrology, and ecosystems than are conventional excavation, treatment, and disposal methods. The article concludes that PFAS immobilization methods need further study to assess their long-term efficiency.

The article also examines the use of soil washing methods for the remediation of PFAS in soil.  Soil washing is an ex-situ remediation technique that removes contaminants from soil by washing the soil with a liquid (often with a chemical additive), scrubbing the soil, and then separating the clean soils from contaminated soil and washwater.  The article concludes that further work to determine the efficacy of the washing solvents.

The article also discusses other soil remediation methods that have been tested effectively in lab trials including thermal treatment techniques, chemical oxidation, ball milling, and electron beams.

 

 

Interim Recommendations for Addressing Groundwater Contamination with PFOA and PFOS

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) recently released interim recommendations for screening levels and preliminary remediation goals to inform the development of final cleanup levels for PFOA and/or PFOS groundwater contamination at sites being evaluated and addressed under federal cleanup programs, including CERCLA and RCRA.

The recommendations are consistent with existing EPA guidance and standard practices, in addition to applicable statutes and regulations. The recommendations may be useful for state, tribal, or other regulatory authorities.

In a news release, U.S. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler stated, “The interim recommendations will provide clear and consistent guidance for federal cleanup programs and will help protect drinking water resources in communities across the country. This is a critical tool for our state, tribal, and local partners to use to protect public health and address these chemicals.”

U.S. Federal agencies and states have asked the U.S. EPA to provide guidance on this issue. After reviewing public comments on the agency’s April 2019 draft guidance, the U.S. EPA is finalizing these interim recommendations based on the available data and scientific information on PFAS toxicity. The U.S. EPA acknowledges that the scientific information on these compounds continues to evolve. As part of the PFAS Action Plan, the U.S. EPA is continuing to develop and assess toxicity information, test methods, laboratory methods, analytical methods, exposure models, and treatment methods, among other research efforts to improve the knowledge about this class of chemicals. As new information becomes available on other PFAS chemicals, the agency will consider additional recommendations as the agency advances its knowledge of these other substances.

CCME Publishes Ecological Risk Assessment Guidance Document

The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) recently posted the latest version of its Ecological Risk Assessment Guidance Document.  The document provides general guidance for site managers and risk assessors to conduct ecological risk assessment for soils, sediments, surface water and groundwater in the context of managing contaminated sites. It expands the Federal Contaminated Sites Action Plan Ecological Risk Assessment Guidance to apply to all jurisdictions and align with CCME’s Framework for Ecological Risk Assessment: General Guidance (1996).

Why conduct an ERA?

Once a site is classified as contaminated, and has contaminant concentrations above existing ecologically based guidelines or levels of potential ecological concern, the site may be remediated to generic standards or an ERA may be used to determine whether and to what extent remediation or other risk management efforts are warranted to mitigate current or future ecological risks. An ERA provides a more detailed basis for determining whether remediation or other risk management measures are warranted (e.g., are there ecological risks?) and to what extent (e.g., which parts of a site should be remediated?).

Using ERA at Contaminated Sites

There are numerous potential drivers for the use of ERA at contaminated sites, such as regulatory triggers (e.g., contamination of an off-site property), due diligence or divestiture. The required ERA process may be driven in part or entirely by provincial or territorial regulations and policy.

About the CCME

The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) is the primary minister-led intergovernmental forum for collective action on environmental issues of national and international concern.  CCME is composed of the environment ministers from the federal, provincial and territorial governments. The role of President of CCME rotates among the 14 ministers of environment on an annual basis. These 14 ministers normally meet at least once a year to discuss national environmental priorities and determine work to be carried out under the auspices of CCME. The Council seeks to achieve positive environmental results, focusing on issues that are Canada-wide in scope and that require collective attention by a number of governments. Since environment is constitutionally an area of shared jurisdiction, it makes sense to work together to promote effective results.

Thermally enhanced bioremediation for DNAPLs

In the fall of 2019, a group of researchers from CDM Smith, the U.S. Army Core of Engineers, TRS Group, and the U.S. EPA presented a paper on the implementation and performance of thermally-enhanced bioremdiation for targeted dense non-aqueous phase liquid (NDAPL) source treatment at the Northwest Remediation Conference in Tacoma, Washington.
In the paper, they describe a multi-component remedy, including in situ thermal remediation (ISTR) and enhanced anaerobic biodegradation (EAB), was implemented at a Superfund site in Tacoma, Washington. The goal of ISTR and EAB was to reduce mass discharge from the source areas by 90%.
EAB was implemented over a large area of the site containing a thin silt unit with residual chlorinated solvent mass and two localized areas above containing DNAPL (predominantly 1,1,2,2-PCA and TCE). Following implementation, dissolved-phase concentrations increased in the DNAPL areas due to enhanced dissolution. Reductive dechlorination products increased, but at a slower rate than desired.
Thermal enhancement by electrical resistance heating (ERH) was designed to increase the rate of dissolution of the DNAPL and to increase the biodegradation kinetics. The ERH treatment zone was created using an array of electrodes around each DNAPL area, with temperature monitoring in the center of each array.
The ERH system was maintained at a target temperature between 45-50°C throughout most of the 12-month operation. Monitoring data indicated that the smaller DNAPL source was substantially depleted during the first six months of operation, while the larger DNAPL source exhibited declining concentrations after 12 months of operation.
Monitoring indicated only minimal biodegradation occurred at the DNAPL-impacted locations. Rapid reductive dechlorination occurred in areas immediately surrounding the electrode array, where temperatures were slightly lower and more favorable for enhanced biological degradation. Since the implementation of ERH, PCA and TCE concentrations in the DNAPL source wells have declined between 80 and 99%.

U.S. Federal Toxmap Website Closes

TOXMAP® is no longer.  Launched an run by the United States National Library of Medicine (NLM) fifteen years ago, the website closed down in December.

ToxMap was a Geographic Information System (GIS) that usedmaps of the United States and Canada to help users visually explore data primarily from the U.S. EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) and Superfund Program, as well as some non-EPA datasets. It combined pollution data  from the U.S. EPA and at least a dozen other U.S. government sources.

ToxMap helped users create nationwide, regional, or local area maps showing where TRI chemicals are released on-site into the air, water, and ground. It also provided facility and release details, color-codes release amounts for a single year or year range, and aggregates release data over multiple years. Maps also showed locations of Superfund National Priorities List (NPL) sites, listing all chemical contaminants present at these sites. Two versions of TOXMAP wereavailable: the classic version of TOXMAP released in 2004, and a newer version of TOXMAP based on Adobe® Flash/Flex technology. The newer version provided an improved map appearance and interactive capabilities and additional datasets such as U.S. EPA coal plant emissions data and U.S. commercial nuclear power plants.

ToxMap began in 2004 as a way of culling data that the U.S. EPA collected on toxic releases and conveying it to the public in more accessible and relevant way. Thanks largely to the 1986 Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), the agency had been collecting huge amounts of data on chemicals of concern being released from individual facilities—the Toxic Release Inventory. But until the early 2000s, this vast store of “public” information demanded considerable time and expertise to find and tap, much less to interpret.

The development of ToxMap was part of a broader government push towards data transparency. ToxMap made it much easier to find out about the chemicals a plant in a neighborhood was releasing into the local water or air, or about where the nearest hazardous wastes sites were located.

 

Green Remediation: Spreadsheets for Environmental Footprint Analysis

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) recently updated a set of analytical workbooks known as “SEFA” (Spreadsheets for Environmental Footprint Analysis) to help decision-makers analyze the environmental footprint of a site cleanup project, determine which cleanup activities drive the footprint, and adjust project parameters to reduce the footprint. Information to be input by the user may be gathered from project planning documents, field records and other existing resources. Automated calculations within SEFA generate outputs that quantify 21 metrics corresponding to core elements of a greener cleanup.

 

Environmental Footprint Summary

Core Element Green Remediation Metric Unit of Measure
Materials & Waste M&W-1 Refined materials used on site tons
M&W-2 Percent of refined materials from recycled or waste material percent
M&W-3 Unrefined materials used on site tons
M&W-4 Percent of unrefined materials from recycled or waste material percent
M&W-5 Onsite hazardous waste generated tons
M&W-6 Onsite non-hazardous waste generated tons
M&W-7 Percent of total potential onsite waste that is recycled or reused percent
Water Onsite water use (by source)
W-1 – Source, use, fate combination #1 millions of gallons
W-2 – Source, use, fate combination #2 millions of gallons
W-3 – Source, use, fate combination #3 millions of gallons
W-4 – Source, use, fate combination #4 millions of gallons
Energy E-1 Total energy use MMBtu
E-2 Total energy voluntarily derived from renewable resources
E-2A – Onsite generation or use and biodiesel use MMBtu
E-2B – Voluntary purchase of renewable electricity MWh
E-2C – Voluntary purchase of RECs MWh
Air A-1 Onsite NOx, SOx, and PM10 emissions lbs
A-2 Onsite HAP emissions lbs
A-3 Total NOx, SOx, and PM10 emissions lbs
A-4 Total HAP emissions lbs
A-5 Total GHG emissions tons CO2e
Land & Ecosystems

Qualitative description

SEFA was first released in 2012 and updated in 2014. In 2019, SEFA was updated to incorporate new default footprint conversion factors for additional materials, diesel or gasoline engines of various sizes, and laboratory analyses. The 2019 update (Version 3.0) also provides additional areas for entering user-defined footprint conversion factors.

Instructions for SEFA Users

  • SEFA comprises three internally linked workbooks (files) in a standard spreadsheet (Excel) format; the files should be saved in a single directory to assure accurate/complete data exchange.
  • Optimal functioning of the workbooks relies on use of Microsoft Office 2013 or higher.
  • An “Introduction” worksheet (tab) in the “Main” workbook provides an overview of SEFA, including its data structure.
  • Technical support in using SEFA is not available outside the Agency; other parties interested in using or adapting the workbooks may wish to obtain technical assistance from qualified environmental or engineering professionals.

Supporting Methodology

EPA’s “Methodology for Understanding and Reducing a Project’s Environmental Footprint” report provides a seven-step process for quantifying the 21 metrics associated with a site cleanup. The report also addresses the value of footprint analysis; discusses the level of effort and cost involved in footprint analysis; details interpretative considerations; provides illustrative approaches to reducing a cleanup project’s environmental footprint; and contains related planning checklists and reference tables.

Newest Guidance on Implementing Advanced Site Characterization Tools

The United States Interstate Technology and Regulatory Council (ITRC) recently published their newest guidance document, Implementing Advanced Site Characterization Tools.  Advanced site characterization tools (ASCTs) are capable of rapid implementation and data generation and can be used to provide data for a more precise and accurate conceptual site model. Although these tools have been available for several years, they often are not used because users perceive them to be expensive and unavailable, or do not understand how ASCTs work and how to interpret the acquired data.

Over the past two years, a team of environmental experts worked together to create this comprehensive guidance to assist stakeholders with the selection and application of ASCTs, as well as the interpretation of data gathered by ASCTs to evaluate the best cleanup options for a project. The guidance divides ASCTs into four categories: Direct Sensing, Borehole Geophysical, Surface Geophysical, and Remote Sensing.

To support the selection and use of ASCTs, this free guidance includes:

  • An ASCT Selection Tool that provides an interactive dataset to identify appropriate tools for collecting geologic, hydrologic, and chemical data,
  • Summary Tables that provide additional information to evaluate the applicability of each tool,
  • Case Studies that provide examples of the use of tools at a site,
  • Checklists that provide information to be considered when planning to use a tool, describe typical content of a report, and identify appropriate quality control checks, and
  • Training Videos that provide an overview of the ASCT document and examples of the application of select tools.

Access the document by visiting https://asct-1.itrcweb.org/


About the U.S. ITRC

The Interstate Technology and Regulatory Council (ITRC) is a state-led coalition working to reduce barriers to the use of innovative environmental technologies and approaches so that compliance costs are reduced and cleanup efficacy is maximized. ITRC produces documents and training that broaden and deepen technical knowledge and expedite quality regulatory decision making while protecting human health and the environment. With private and public sector members from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, ITRC truly provides a national perspective.