RPI Newsletter Methodical Site Characterization or Else Manin Yellow Chair wearing Dunce Cap

Methodical Site Characterization or Else

Methodical Site Characterization or Else

To truly learn something, it’s essential to understand it in your own unique way. In junior high, I had a teacher whose first name was “Boots.” This was well before children called adults by their first name. Among the students, it was well known that you didn’t call Mr. Scott “Boots.” So, I strolled into his classroom and said, “What’s up, Boots?” Did I forget to mention that this was also when being struck with a large wooden paddle was acceptable? That was a science lesson. Did you know that if you are hit on the backside with a sufficient force three times in appropriate succession, you can achieve zero gravity? If I met Mr. Scott on the street today, I don’t believe I could call him Boots even if he asked me to.


In our business, there can be a similar recklessness: moving to remedy before the location and mass of contamination are known. I’ve done this once, twice—yep, a few times. Maybe others are still doing this? A colleague of mine is fond of the phrase—whistling past the graveyard. It is easy to be overconfident because it was a small release or because you’re techno-blinded by a 3D computer image of high-resolution screening data. Perhaps you felt pressured because the client wants the situation resolved immediately. I mean, “What’s up, Boots?”

Field screening tools like MIP, UVOST, and electrical conductivity can be used to reliably locate contaminants, and performing high-density sampling for laboratory analysis can enhance our understanding of the actual contaminant mass. Only when we have a comprehensive understanding of the contaminant mass and the heterogeneity of the geologic formations within which it resides can we make an informed decision on remediation. Jumping to conclusions or taking shortcuts will lead to costly mistakes down the road. We each learn in our own way, but taking a methodical approach is crucial in environmental remediation. Otherwise, we may expect our client to introduce us to zero gravity, just like my former teacher did for me so long ago.


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High density sampling for laboratory analysis gives you the identities of the contaminants in the media and quantitative values. HRSC provides the location of contamination and characteristics of the geology. Both are required to build a sound conceptual site model.



Kind Regards,

Ed Winner, PhD, Vice President
Remediation Products, Inc.


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