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10 Ways to Accelerate Cleanups

Cannon Silver, PE Principal Environmental Engineer
Put these 10 steps into practice to achieve efficiency on remediation projects.

Overall, the key to ac­cel­er­at­ing cleanup is to put into place a sound, flexible plan with a clear endpoint, com­mu­ni­cate that plan, and then be ready to quickly adapt the plan to changing con­di­tions. Here are 10 steps to help make that happen:

  1. Begin with the end in mind. Es­tab­lish clear data quality ob­jec­tives before sampling or op­er­at­ing a system. Think care­fully about the data you need, the most efficient ways to gather and analyze it, po­ten­tial use of existing data, and the actions that the results will guide. The goal is to gather just enough data to minimize later sur­prises and to move ahead with your cleanup.

  2. Use data and sta­tis­tics to support decision making. Use standard software packages to guide sampling and to evaluate trends. It is hard to argue against the numbers.

  3. Optimize, optimize, optimize. Identify and im­ple­ment specific actions that improve effectiveness and cost efficiency at every phase of the cleanup. Continually ask how can the remedial investigation be op­ti­mized? The design? The remedial action? Actively monitor system per­for­mance data to de­ter­mine when the system may be turned off per the es­tab­lished exit strategy. This may require an in­de­pen­dent expert to review ob­jec­tives and system data. Care­fully monitor com­pli­ance data to de­ter­mine when remedial action ob­jec­tives are met.

  4. Do not cut corners. Haste does make waste. Take the time up front to think, plan and com­mu­ni­cate that plan. Identify each review and per­mit­ting task needed. Plan to “do no harm” and ul­ti­mately the cleanup will be ef­fec­tive. Use ex­pe­ri­enced teams and per­son­nel.

  5. More com­mu­ni­ca­tion is better than not enough. Take the time to share plans with stake­hold­ers and get feedback along the way. This applies to the project team, state agencies and the com­mu­nity. While this com­mu­ni­ca­tion approach may take more time, the effort builds trust that can pay off with fewer hurdles down the road and more support to overcome hurdles if they do arise.

  6. Avoid mission im­pos­si­ble. Es­tab­lish SMART remedial action ob­jec­tives—specific, measurable, at­tain­able, relevant, and time bound. You may need to discuss al­ter­na­tive end points (examples include risk-based re­me­di­a­tion to meet 95 percent upper confidence levels, rather than point-by-point re­me­di­a­tion). Develop and obtain buy-in for a clear exit strategy.

  7. Do not reinvent the wheel. Take ad­van­tage of avail­able in­for­ma­tion and tools to analyze data, evaluate remedial tech­nolo­gies, and inform designs and op­ti­miza­tion. Apply high-res­o­lu­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tion tech­niques, on-line modeling, and green and sus­tain­able eval­u­a­tion guidance. Use these re­sources to estimate time­frames and removal ef­fec­tive­ness of various tech­nolo­gies rather than design or operate within a vacuum. Keeping up with the latest advances may ul­ti­mately save time and money.

  8. Design flexibility into the remedy. Sub­sur­face con­di­tions are veiled and dynamic. Plan flexibility into your remedy ac­cord­ingly to allow you to ef­fec­tively adapt to changing con­di­tions. In­cor­po­rate combined remedies into planning doc­u­ments to address dif­fer­ent areas of the site and to provide flexibility to quickly move from one remedy to another as conditions change. Rent systems rather than purchase them, or order pre-packaged systems.

  9. Consider bi­o­log­i­cal remedies. Some quick remedies, such as ex­ca­va­tion or chemical ox­i­da­tion, leave residual con­t­a­m­i­na­tion that can delay site closure. Sus­tain­able remedies, in­clud­ing per­me­able reactive barriers, enhanced biore­me­di­a­tion, and mon­i­tored natural at­ten­u­a­tion, may play a role in ad­dress­ing long-term residual con­t­a­m­i­na­tion at the site, even while allowing site closure and property transfer to proceed.

  10. Think in terms of risk man­age­ment. Ask both the prob­a­bil­ity and impact of each outcome; if the com­bi­na­tion is sufficiently high, develop a mitigation plan. If not, proceed.
Cannon Silver Cannon Silver
The key to accelerating cleanups is to put into place a sound, flexible plan with a clear endpoint.

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