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A Life-Cycle Perspective Can Reduce Cleanup Closts

Geoffrey McKenzie, PE
With many of the remaining cleanups in the Superfund program involving large, complex sites and fewer funds to implement the remedies, life cycle costs become an important consideration when planning and designing a remedy. 

Evaluating the Costs
Evaluating life cycle costs of a remedy from project inception through operations and maintenance (O&M) can guide effective use of the shrinking funds available. Life cycle costs include the costs of designing, imple­ment­ing, and operating and maintaining a remedy until a site can be closed (see illus­tra­tion). Minimizing life cycle costs may mean investing more funds early in the process to allow the cleanup and O&M to be more efficient and effective, thereby saving money over the life of the remediation project.

Po­ten­tial Cost-Reducing Con­sid­er­a­tions
Some of the factors we evaluate to ensure that a remedy min­i­mizes life cycle costs include:

  • Will spending more on a remedy reduce life cycle costs by min­i­miz­ing O&M costs?
  • Can the ground­wa­ter con­t­a­m­i­na­tion be cleaned up with an in situ remedy rather than a long-term pump-and-treat remedy?
  • If a site requires a long-term pump-and-treat remedy, will spec­i­fy­ing au­toma­tion and equip­ment that reduces the cost of the process minimize life cycle costs through lower O&M costs?
  • Will a pilot study for an in situ remedy lead to a shorter response action and lower O&M costs?

Evaluating life cycle costs of a remedy from project inception through O&M can guide effective use of the shrinking funds available.

Proven Results
Sites for which CDM Smith has effectively minimized life cycle costs include large mining sites, large groundwater sites and sites with complex hydro­ge­ol­ogy. Life cycle costs were reduce on a groundwater pump-and-treat site in South Carolina by including automation, specifying materials of construc­tion that would last longer, and designing a process that minimized the frequency of sludge disposal, reducing the cost of long-term O&M. At a site in California, we conducted a pilot study using multiple tech­nolo­gies, which enabled site closure rather than having to implement a long-term pump-and-treat remedy.

Evaluating life cycle costs throughout the CERCLA process rather than just trying to minimize costs in the earlier stages of the process ensures that a site’s total costs are minimized.

Investing more funds early in the process can save money over the life of the remediation project.
Geoffrey McKenzie, PE Vice President, Remediation Project Manager
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