Clean up of groundwater contamination remains a significant and complex environmental challenge faced by the Department of Defense. Methods to remediate groundwater contaminated by anthropogenic sources in a cost-efficient and effective method have been a continuous focus of the environmental community. While there have been significant developments in the understanding and evaluation of monitored natural attenuation (MNA) processes and associated technologies, restoration of contaminated groundwater to allow for unrestricted use and exposure continues to be a challenge. Because active in situ cleanup technologies may present a wide array of complex physical, chemical, and biological constraints, there has been a growing focus on understanding natural processes that passively attenuate groundwater contaminant plumes when active treatments become ineffective or unfeasible.

Dr. Pedro Alvarez at Rice University, along with Dr. Charles Newell and Dr. David Adamson at GSI Environmental have developed a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) titled, “Natural Attenuation of Groundwater Contaminants: New Paradigms, New Technologies, New Applications”. The course has been developed under ESTCP project ER-201572, one of the 8 projects associated with the Environmental Restoration Program Area that focuses on innovative technology transfer to end users.

The benefit of this newly developed MOOC is two-fold: it utilizes an emerging and versatile educational platform to transfer knowledge to end users to provide focused interaction between interested communities while removing the constraints associated with travel and budgets. The course also aims to offer an improved understanding of natural attenuation of contaminated groundwater to the user community, which includes remedial project managers, groundwater regulators, groundwater consultants, industry and site technical representatives, and individuals in academia.

The course will build upon basic environmental science and environmental engineering principles to determine how to best implement MNA as a viable treatment option for groundwater contaminant plumes. The course will utilize lectures, readings, and computational exercises to enhance the student’s understanding and implementation of MNA. Students who complete the course will have an understanding of MNA processes, technologies, and practical tools that can be applied at MNA sites.

The course can be taken online, on-demand, and covers 9 weeks of course material. The course will emphasize new developments in natural attenuation covering a wide range of topics to include:

  • Abiotic degradation principles,
  • Attenuation and storage in low K zones,
  • Dilution as an attenuation process – sometimes,
  • Better technologies: compound specific isotopes and molecular biological tools,
  • Monitoring for MNA,
  • Modeling tools to support MNA, and
  • New directions for MNA.

The courses are presented as a series of short videos that include “face-time” with instructors, graphics, data visualizations, and short videos of key scientific experiments. Each week’s class will be accompanied by a short “Key Points” handout that can be read on-line or downloaded from the class web page. A few homework problems also will be issued during each week of the class to cover the material being presented. To qualify for the Certificate of Completion, participants will have to demonstrate participation in the class and understanding of key material being presented via assessments that may include quizzes and written assignments.

Anyone may enroll in the course beginning September 6, 2016 at: