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Top Navigation Bar About the Technology Innovation ProgramU.S. Environmental Protection Agency

EPA Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (OSWER) Needs Areas

EPA's Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (OSWER) has undertaken an initiative to advance new monitoring and characterization technologies for hazardous waste sites. OSWER believes that there have been significant technological advances in recent years in the areas of chemical constituent identification and quantification, geophysical analysis, and information management. These advances could dramatically improve capabilities to characterize sites, monitor remedial activities and provide long term monitoring for closed sites.

OSWER has identified 18 areas where significant technology needs or gaps exist and, thus, require research to help address these needs. These areas are:

Air Emissions Monitoring
Continuous Emissions Monitors for Use with Thermal Hazardous Waste Treatment Systems

Compliance with air emission standards or limitations has traditionally been determined by initial and periodic "stack tests" and establishment of operating parameters with the goal of ensuring day-to-day compliance. The main concerns with this approach are 1) the time intervals between tests is long—3 to 10 years; 2) lack of certainty that the operating parameter specification is effective in ensuring that day-to-day emissions are within acceptable limits; and 3) for organic hazardous air pollutants, even an expensive stack test may not measure all of the potential "products of incomplete combustion" (PICs).

OSWER is seeking technologies or techniques which allow real-time/near real-time ability to measure stack emissions for toxic organic and heavy metal air emissions, in particular dioxin/furan, mercury, cadmium, lead, arsenic, beryllium, and chromium. The current standard for dioxins and furans is generally 0.40 ng TEQ/dscm. A complicating factor for dioxin and furan monitoring is that these contaminants can occur in both gaseous form and attached to particulate matter.

Characterizing and Monitoring Mining Sites
Monitoring Technologies for Mining Waste Sites

The presence of very large mining sites, particularly in the western states, presents a significant health and environmental threat with no cost-effective solution. Superfund mining sites pose a unique and significant challenge because they often cover a large geographic area and include a very large volume of contaminated media resulting from mining operations. The ability to characterize and monitor releases from these sites is vital to understanding the risks and developing appropriate remedial approaches.

OSWER is seeking low-cost, low maintenance monitors and advanced remote-sensing based tools (i.e., air and space borne) for characterizing the extent of contamination at very large mining waste sites, monitoring releases, assessing risks, and planning and implementing remediation measures. These tools should provide information on the location and areal extent of mining activities and related waste piles; on the nature and extent of releases from active and inactive mines; and on contaminants, particularly metals, and their concentrations.

Contaminated Sediment Characterization
Sampling and Analytical Technologies for Potentially Contaminated Sediment

The difficulty of monitoring and measuring non-particulate contaminant releases from potentially contaminated sediment is due largely to inadequate methods for characterizing the sediment/surface water interface, spatial distribution, sediment mixing, and pore water. Characterizing the sediment/surface water interface is challenging because the physical, biological, and geochemical characteristics of this layer can change greatly over distances as small as millimeters. Advances have occurred in the design and operation of flux meters, such as the ultrasonic seepage meter; however, they are of limited use in the absence of any independent verification of their performance. An assessment of bioturbation that causes sediment mixing is important because highly contaminated sediment can move up and contaminate the surface water. Because the various sediment pore water methods are designed for different purposes, such as predicting contaminant transport, calculating biodegradation, and estimating contaminant uptake by benthic organisms, they all provide different results, which can be misleading.

OSWER is seeking better monitoring and measurement methods to characterize (1) the transition zone at the sediment/surface water interface, (2) the spatial distribution of the flux of contaminants from sediments to surface water, (3) the amount of sediment mixing due to bioturbation, and (4) the sediment pore water.

Field Methods
Cost-Effective Screening Technologies for Dioxin Contamination

Traditional laboratory analysis of dioxin in sediment, soil, and air is expensive. Examples are Method 28A-based sampling for air emissions of dioxin and SW 846 Method 8290 for dioxin analysis by HRGC/HRMS.

OSWER is seeking test kits and other alternative screening tests that have been validated with more traditional laboratory analyses of dioxin in sediment and soil. OSWER also is seeking a less expensive alternative to Method 28-A for air emissions. The EPA Superfund Innovative Technology Evaluation (SITE) is planning on evaluating bioanalytical methods for dioxins and dioxin-like contaminants in the spring of 2004 and so far has five vendors. For more information on this effort contact Ms. Amy Dindal, (513) 317-8012, dindala@battelle.org. OSWER would like to avoid duplication of the SITE program with this effort.

Field Analytical Methods to Detect Perchlorate Particularly in Water Samples

Perchlorate has been detected in groundwater and soil across the country. While there is currently no MCL for perchlorate, EPA Region 9 has set a preliminary remediation goal of 3.6 µg/L. There is a need to develop field analytical methods that can achieve this quantitation level and overcome any interferents.

Remote Sensing for Fence-Line Monitoring for Fugitive Emissions/Enforcement Activities

Emergency response/removal operations, compliance/enforcement functions, and operation of treatment technologies in both the Superfund and corrective action programs require systems that effectively monitor for fugitive emissions of hazardous air pollutants along the "fence line" of a site. The effectiveness of a fence-line monitoring technique is a function of the length of the fence line, the number of monitoring points, the receptors' locations, the source size and strength, and the compounds of concern.

OSWER is seeking real-time/near real-time monitoring of toxic organic pollutants downwind at the fence line of a facility using remote sensing technology.

Analytical Techniques for Pesticides and their Degradation Products

Endocrine disruption due to exposure to chlorinated cyclodiene pesticides can occur at extremely minute chemical doses, and the cost involved in measuring them and their degradation products at such low levels, severely limits the ability of remedial project managers to obtain adequate information for a risk assessment. Current technologies (immunoassays) allow for field testing of Chlordane, Aldrin, Endrin, and other chlorinated cyclodiene pesticides but lack the specificity or sensitivity to accommodate current risk assessment methods.

OSWER is seeking field analytical techniques that can accurately measure several toxic and persistent endocrine-disrupting pesticides and their degradation products, including the previously used pesticides, Chlordane, Aldrin, and Endrin and their long-lived toxic degradation products, Dieldrin, Heptachlor, and Heptachlor-Epoxide.

Field-Based Monitoring and Measurement Technologies for MTBE in Soil and Groundwater

Methyl Tert-Butyl Ether (MTBE) has been a widely used oxygenate in motor vehicle fuels and has been found in the groundwater of many leaking underground storage tanks. It is relatively persistent compared with the traditional BTEX problem and more mobile. While it is detectable by portable GC/PID equipment there are often co-elution problems and its low Henry’s Constant will give it a high detection limit when headspace analysis is used. A robust field method needs to be developed that will provide sufficiently low detection limits (10-20 µg/L) with minimal sample preparation requirements and interferences.

Indoor Air Quality
Monitoring Vapor Intrusion into Buildings

Currently, the only reliable means of determining whether or not soil vapor intrusion into indoor spaces is occurring is to measure subslab vapor and/or indoor air concentrations. Because both forms of measurement require entering the indoor space, less intrusive methods are needed. Although techniques exist for measuring soil vapor concentrations and flux outdoors, the relationship between these measurements and subslab or indoor air concentrations is not clear. Research is needed to evaluate and improve on these existing techniques. Also needed is research to evaluate methods to estimate VOC vapor intrusion based on radon technology. A considerable savings during spatial and temporal characterization of a site could be obtained if naturally occurring radon measurements alone could be used to assess potential levels of VOCs and radon in indoor spaces.

OSWER is seeking less intrusive methods to measure the potential for soil vapors to intrude into buildings and pose an unacceptable inhalation risk. The methods would monitor and measure vapor concentrations and/or flux outside of buildings as a means of estimating the potential for these vapors to intrude into indoor spaces. OSWER also is seeking radon-based technologies that cost-effectively assess the potential for VOC vapor intrusion into buildings.

In-Situ Monitoring Systems
Sensor Technologies for Long-Term Monitoring of Groundwater

Groundwater contamination at many sites often consists of a small number of analytes (e.g., perchloroethene or trichloroethene). Long term monitoring of these sites can be expensive because of the need to physically visit the site to collect groundwater samples or devices such as diffusion samplers for offsite analysis. There is a need for in-situ sensors that are chemical specific, have detection limits appropriate to the chemical being monitored, can be queried remotely multiple times without the need for maintenance calibration, and which are immune to or can deal with biofouling problems.

In-Situ Sensors for Monitoring Ground-Water Contamination/Treatment System Performance

As more pump and treat (and other water treatment systems) enter the operations and monitoring phase of implementation, techniques which either effectively monitor the behavior of the contaminant plume or the performance features of the system are essential. OSWER is seeking in-situ sensor technologies or techniques which either improve the capacity to monitor the presence and concentration of contaminants, particularly chlorinated solvents, in the saturated zone or significantly decrease the cost of existing techniques for monitoring these contaminants. Techniques that allow for remote operations through telemetry are also of interest, as are techniques, which in conjunction with modeling processes, allow for optimization of monitoring and/or operating treatment systems.

Federal and state UST cleanup programs need remote-telemetry compatible sensors that measure reductions in BTEX or MTBE levels in soils and ground water at several hundred thousand ongoing and new UST cleanup sites. These sensors should produce either continuous or statistically determined periodic signals indicating BTEX or MTBE levels or both. Each sensor should have a self contained power source with a life of 3-5 years and be capable of interfacing with either remote telemetry data-capture systems or hand-held data capturing devices applied on-site.

Leak Detection Technologies for Small Municipal Landfills

There are approximately 3,000 municipal solid waste landfills in the U.S. Of these, over 2,000 are owned by local governments with populations under 10,000. For those governments and for tribes, ground-water monitoring is a relatively large cost. At the same time, ground-water monitoring is essential to detect leachate contamination, which is the greatest environmental threat from landfills. Development of cost-effective monitoring would help solve this dilemma between insurmountable financial burden and environmental threat.

OSWER is seeking strategies or technologies that would allow for protective but cost-effective methods to verify the integrity and/or detect leaks from municipal landfills. Examples may include (but are not limited to) remote platforms that provide cost-effective monitoring of the integrity of engineered covers. In addition, sensors are needed to monitor the integrity and effectiveness of slurry walls and liners. This need includes systems designed for containment purposes and systems designed for containment and passive treatment (e.g., permeable reactive barrier systems). Such platforms/sensors, with appropriate telemetry, would allow timely remedial action that minimizes the frequency and extent of contaminant releases from the containment system and reduces the potential for human and environmental exposure.

Laboratory Analytical Methods
New Monitoring Methods for Total Cyanides, Cyanide Speciation

To prevent adverse effects from acute exposure from cyanide, EPA must monitor for release of toxic levels of cyanide. This capability is essential to protect human health, prevent deaths, and enhance credibility of regulation.

OSWER is seeking more accurate, reliable, and enforceable technologies, techniques, and tests to monitor for total cyanides and to speciate cyanides. OSWER is particularly interested in techniques based on alkaline digestion and ion chromatography.

Monitoring Effectiveness of In-Situ Remedies
Monitors of Natural Attenuation and Other In-Situ Systems

The long-term effectiveness of natural attenuation, bioremediation, and other in-situ systems at contaminated sites is difficult to predict. Better methods are needed to estimate the likelihood of success or failure of in-situ methods before they are applied and to monitor their effectiveness when used.

OSWER is seeking methods to characterize the presence or absence and quantity of microorganisms capable of degrading various contaminants and cost-effective technologies that can determine whether the disappearance of contaminants is due to biodegradation, volatilization, or other factors.

Subsurface Chemical Detection Systems
Technologies for Locating and Monitoring DNAPL Contamination

Monitoring for the presence and persistence of non-aqueous phase liquids (NAPLs), particularly dense non-aqueous phase liquids (DNAPLs), presents a challenge to the operation and effectiveness of remedial systems for treating contaminated ground water. Accurately locating and addressing DNAPL contamination is essential to designing and implementing effective systems.

OSWER is seeking technologies or techniques that can locate, identify, and characterize DNAPL contamination in the subsurface—ideally, technologies that are non-invasive or minimally invasive. Technologies should be capable of locating small volumes of DNAPL, characterizing the contamination, assisting with the visualization of the DNAPL relative to features in the subsurface hydrogeology, and supporting the modeling and optimization of treatment systems.

Monitoring Technologies for Mercury and Heavy Metals in Soils

EPA needs field instrumentation to enhance characterization of soil at sites in the U.S. that have become contaminated with mercury and other heavy metals. New non-invasive technologies such as electromagnetic radiography that eliminate core sampling are of special interest.

Underground Storage Tanks
Leak Detection Methods for Underground Storage Tanks and Pipes

About 650,000 UST systems must perform leak detection for their underground tanks and piping. OSWER is interested in technologies or strategies for detecting releases that are more sensitive, less prone to human error, and as cost effective as current leak detection methods; however, years of monitoring the literature has revealed that papers about new leak detection technologies seldom appear. This lack is attributed to the common practice of sending information about new leak monitoring systems directly to the National Work Group on Leak Detection Evaluations (NWGLDE) for inclusion in the List of Leak Detection Evaluations for UST Systems, published annually since 1995. The free annual reports and interim updates to the list are posted on the NWGLDE website.

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Page Last Modified: February 28, 2014