Cleanup Optimization at Superfund Sites

Remedy Optimization is the systematic site review by a team of independent technical experts, at any phase of a cleanup process to identify opportunities to improve remedy protectiveness, effectiveness and cost efficiency, and to facilitate progress toward completion of site work.

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In September 2012, the Superfund program released a National Strategy to Expand Superfund Optimization Practices from Site Assessment to Site Completion. The goals of the Strategy are to expand and formalize optimization practices as an operating business model for the Superfund remedial program. The Strategy envisions the application of optimization concepts throughout all phases of the remedial pipeline as a normal part of remedial program activities.

To date, the Superfund program has conducted more than 120 optimization reviews via Remediation System Evaluations (RSEs) and Long-Term Monitoring Optimization (LTMO) reviews. Although the majority of optimization technical support has been applied to Fund-lead Long-Term Response Action (LTRA) sites, EPA has also conducted pilot optimization efforts during remedial design (RD) and remedial action (RA); in support of preparing Five-Year Reviews; at Potentially Responsible Party (PRP) sites; at state-lead sites; and at remedy "re-design" sites (where the current remedy is not achieving its goals). These related efforts have demonstrated benefits similar to the optimization of Fund-lead LTRA sites, and have been widely discussed within EPA and with stakeholders. EPA also has provided technical support to regions and other stakeholders in two areas that are closely related or complementary to optimization: Green Remediation and the Triad Approach.

The key components of optimization can be used to perform more effectively the activities necessary to demonstrate that a site meets cleanup criteria for protectiveness determinations and ultimately site completion. The benefits of these optimization efforts may include more cost-effective expenditure of Superfund dollars; lower energy use; reduced carbon footprint; improved remedy protectiveness; improved project and site decision making; and acceleration of project and site completion.

Efforts are currently underway to unify the previously independent optimization efforts (such as RSE, LTMO, Triad, and Green Remediation) under the singular activity and term "optimization", which can be used to support decision making throughout the Superfund project life cycle from remedial investigation (RI) to site completion. Furthermore, for those sites in early planning of the RI stage, the Superfnd program aims to bring forward optimization lessons learned and practices through similar technical support mechanisms.

An RSE utilizes an independent team of experts to evaluate the performance of an operating remedy and makes recommendations to improve protectiveness, reduce costs, improve technical operation, and facilitate site closure.

These efforts range from demonstrating geostatistical software for optimizing long-term monitoring programs to reviewing emerging sensor technologies to facilitate groundwater monitoring.

Green Remediation is the practice of considering all environmental effects of remedy implementation and incorporating options to minimize the environmental footprint of cleanup activities. Green Remediation considers five core elements: energy requirements; air emissions; water and water resources; land and ecosystem impacts; and material consumption and waste generation.

The Triad approach to decision-making for hazardous waste sites offers a technically defensible methodology for managing decision uncertainty that leverages innovative characterization tools and strategies.

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Key Guidance Documents

The guidance documents listed below have largely been developed in response to lessons learned from previous optimization reviews conducted at operating ground water pump and treat systems. These documents are intended for a wide audience within the remediation community, including project managers, regulators, engineers, and hydrogeologists.

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Optimization Project Background

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Summary Reports on Implementation Progress

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Other Related Links

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