Significant limitations with currently available remedial
technologies persist that make achievement of MCLs throughout the
aquifer unlikely at most complex groundwater sites in a time frame
of 50-100 years. Furthermore, future improvements in these
technologies are likely to be incremental, such that long-term
monitoring and stewardship at sites with groundwater contamination
should be expected.
This is, to put it bluntly, not a surprise. How many
practitioners have worked on sites where the remedy is expected to
take more than 100 years? Sadly, I know I have.
According to the Daily Environment Report, Michael Kavanaugh,
chair of the committee that wrote the report, believes that
"this finding needs to inform decision making at these complex
sites." We'll see about that. I'm skeptical that
EPA or Congress will be listening.
Arguably, the most important recommendation made in the report
If the effectiveness of site remediation reaches a point of
diminishing returns prior to reaching cleanup goals and
optimization has been exhausted, the transition to monitored
natural attenuation or some other active or passive management
should be considered using a formal evaluation. This transition
assessment would determine whether a new remedy is warranted at the
site or whether long-term management is appropriate.
PRPs have been making this argument for years, and it has
largely fallen on deaf ears at EPA. Given that the report
notes that the cost to complete cleanup at these sites exceeds $100
billion, isn't it time we started asking ourselves whether this
is money well-spent?
(FYI, the link above is to a free pre-publication copy. You
can purchase the final report here.)
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