Contributed by Ben Clabaugh, Senior Project Manager Pensacola Office
Sometimes you have to spend money to save money. And no, this is not about a 50% off sale at Homegoods. It’s about soil and groundwater contamination assessments to determine the extent of contamination. In particular, it’s about the couple extra hundred dollars it would take at the very start of an assessment to collect and analyze soil and groundwater for total organic carbon, iron, manganese, nitrates, sulfates, etc. These compounds are indicators of the presence of biodegradation, the process by which microorganisms (e.g. bacteria, fungi) break down organic contaminants into simpler, less toxic compounds.
Knowing biodegradation is one of the most important factors in contamination cleanup, many state agencies and experienced consultants go from assessment to remediation without analyzing a single biodegradation parameter.
Here’s why spending a little extra on assessing the potential for soil and groundwater biodegradation before selecting a cleanup method is a smart decision:
First, understanding the potential for biodegradation can help to inform decisions about the most appropriate and effective cleanup options. If assessment results show that biodegradation is occurring to a sufficient degree, a remediation system costing tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars may not be needed at all.
Second, assessing the availability and distribution of electron donors and acceptors (i.e. total organic carbon, iron, manganese, nitrates, sulfates, etc.) can help to identify any factors that may inhibit the effectiveness of the cleanup efforts. For example, air sparging will not work well in an environment where the pH is too low or the organic content is too high.
Third, learning about the presence of electron donors and acceptors can help to identify any potential risks or negative impacts associated with biodegradation, such as the production of gasses, or unwanted underground chemical reactions. For example, injecting ozone (aka ozone sparging) in an area where the iron content is too high could result in precipitation of iron oxide and a reduction of formation porosity.
Overall, spending a little extra on assessing the potential for soil and groundwater biodegradation up front is a smart decision, as it can inform decisions about the most appropriate and effective cleanup options, optimize the conditions for biodegradation, and minimize any potential risks or impacts. Spend a little, save a lot. Then you can go nuts at Homegoods.