August 13-14, 2013 Arlington, VA

Background: A recent summary of the nation’s groundwater remediation effort (NRC, 2012) concluded that “significant technical limitations persist that make achievement of MCLs [Maximum Contaminant Levels] throughout the aquifer unlikely at most complex groundwater sites for many decades.”  Thus, management of these sites will represent a significant cost and potential liability for a long time. However, long term management poses daunting technical and regulatory challenges, particularly for complex sites, yet research funding in this area is steadily decreasing. 

The NRC report briefly reviewed several of these challenges. The needs identified included better tools to characterize complex sites before and after remediation, models useful for “transition assessments” to determine when transitioning to passive management is appropriate, better remediation techniques (including emerging technologies as well as combinations of existing technologies), and careful reviews of remediation technology performance over extended times. 

The NRC concluded that “long-term management of complex sites requires an appropriately detailed understanding of geologic complexity and the potential distribution of contaminants among the aqueous, vapor, sorbed, and NAPL phases, as well as the unique biogeochemical dynamics associated with both the source area and the downgradient plume.” Currently, such a detailed understanding is very costly, if not infeasible, to obtain. As the Department of Defense (DoD) increasingly institutes remedies on most sites, attention is shifting to such complex sites, such as source zones within fractured bedrock. Transitioning to passive management soon, while ensuring environmental protection, could reduce the costs of remediation significantly.

SERDP and ESTCP have funded considerable research relevant to this topic in the past, with an emphasis on chlorinated solvents, but including several other contaminants that are particularly important to the DoD. An assessment of current research progress and future research needed to meet the needs of the DoD in managing their complex sites is critically important. 

Objective: SERDP and ESTCP must determine how their limited research, development, and demonstration funds can best be invested to improve DoD’s ability to effectively address its environmental requirements to manage and reduce the impacts of contaminated sites. The difficulties in completely restoring many complex sites contaminated with chloroethenes and related contaminants have led to the growing recognition that long term and lengthy restoration processes may be inevitable. This workshop will focus on the research needed to more efficiently deal with the long-term management and lengthy restoration of complex sites, with overall objectives to (1) review the current status of complex sites, expectations for restoration, and how they are managed, (2) identify options for achieving restoration goals more efficiently over longer periods of time, (3) prioritize the research and demonstrations needed to show that restoration goals can confidently be achieved more efficiently over longer periods of time, and the new technologies needed to support that paradigm, and (4) promote cooperation with other federal agencies to fund the needed work most efficiently.

Approach: Scheduled for August 13-14, 2013 in Arlington VA, the 2-day workshop will consist of several formal presentations that summarize currently funded efforts in this area, a poster session highlighting recent research and encouraging information exchange, followed by breakout sessions focused on determining data gaps and prioritizing research needs.

Products: This meeting will provide a summary and prioritization of research needs for long term management of contaminated groundwater which will be summarized in a final report that will serve as a strategic plan to guide future SERDP and ESTCP investments.