The objective of this project is to demonstrate OPTICS (OPTically-based In Situ Characterization System), a high-resolution chemical contaminant characterization system, as a cost-effective, long-term monitoring method at contaminated sediment sites; and to support transition of the method to broader application. In particular, OPTICS is suitable for pre-remedy assessment, source control evaluation, remedial implementation or dredge plume monitoring, and remedy performance evaluation. OPTICS will be evaluated for its ability to aid site managers for these purposes. The project will demonstrate the applicability and suitability of the technology at up to two Department of Defense sites and evaluate the utility and cost-effectiveness of the technology compared to traditional sampling methods. The system specifications for the technology will be defined through the demonstrations to provide guidance for end-users of the technology and provide an end-user data analysis tool/interface to facilitate technology transfer. The validation and documentation through the real-world demonstration will help ensure regulatory acceptance.

Technology Description

OPTICS combines robust aquatic instrumentation and innovative data processing techniques to produce high-resolution measurements of dissolved and particulate concentrations of a wide range of contaminants at a significantly reduced cost. OPTICS has successfully been tested at multiple contaminated sediment sites and shown that the system provides low-cost, high-resolution timeseries measurements of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), heavy metals (mercury and lead), and other chemicals of concern (COCs; e.g., dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxins, and copper). While OPTICS has been applied to resolve temporal variability at multiple contaminated sediment sites, demonstration and cost-performance evaluation of a mobile OPTICS system is needed to demonstrate its utility for high spatial resolution mapping of chemical contaminants (e.g., dredge plume mapping). Furthermore, the technology has not yet been widely adopted at contaminated sediment sites because subject matter experts are required for proper application and interpretation of the statistical OPTICS model. A key component of this project will be to facilitate technology transfer and make the OPTICS methodology more widely employable and accepted. The project will include the development of a user-friendly data analysis interface and technical documentation to allow a broad set of end-users to apply OPTICS at contaminated sediment sites for rapid characterization of source control, site baselining, remedy evaluation, and dredge monitoring.


The expected product of this study is a verified OPTICS system that has the potential to measure a wide range of COCs at a significantly reduced cost relative to traditional monitoring techniques used within the environmental industry. Preliminary evaluation shows that monitoring costs could be reduced by as much as 75% while significantly increasing the temporal and spatial resolution of sampling. Since the approach is based on readily available aquatic instrumentation combined with innovative data collection and processing techniques, the technology can be rapidly transferred to site managers for use a wide range of applications. Development of a data processing graphical user interface will allow a range of end-users to adopt use of OPTICS, which in addition to suitability evaluation, technical documentation, and training, will support widespread use and regulatory acceptance. (Anticipated Project Completion - 2024)


Chang, G., F. Spada, K. Brodock, C. Hutchings, and K. Markillie. 2024. Evaluation of Stormwater as a Potential Source of Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Case Studies in Chemical and Environmental Engineering, 9:100659. doi.org/10.1016/j.cscee.2024.100659.