Technology Innovation Program

1.0 Introduction

The purpose of this website is to provide a tool to assist site project managers in the selection of appropriate technical performance measures (TPMs) for evaluating the remedial success of soil amendments used for remediation, revitalization, and reuse of contaminated sites. The success is evaluated by the reduction of risks to human health and the environment. Soil amendments are residual materials from other processes and include waste residuals such as municipal biosolids, manures, litters, sugar beet lime, wood ash, coal combustion products, log yard waste, neutralizing lime products, a variety of composted agricultural byproducts, and traditional agricultural fertilizers. When added to soils, they can promote positive changes in chemical, physical and biological properties of the disturbed media. More information about soil amendments will be available shortly in “The Use of Soil Amendments for Remediation, Revitalization, and Reuse: A White Paper,” which is being prepared by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Although this website was developed for evaluating the success (risk reduction) of remediation projects that utilized soil amendments, the matrix also may be used for projects where other in situ remediation technologies have been used.

Performance-based measures demonstrating reduction in contaminant mobility and/or bioavailability that are consistent from site to site help site managers and their technical support teams, as well as other stakeholders, assess whether soil amendments are functioning as designed. The database and search engine at the heart of the website is built around a set of “core” TPMs developed by drawing upon the collective knowledge and experience of experts. These tests were selected because of their reasonable cost, ready availability, and level of standardization from provider to provider.

The core TPMs evaluate the toxicity, bioavailability and/or mobility of the contaminants present as well as assisting in determining if the remediation is protective of human health and the environment. Several tests that measure direct exposure include both in vivo bioassays (i.e., living plant, invertebrate, or swine as a human surrogate) and in vitro soil tests (i.e., laboratory soil chemical methods correlated with in vivo models). In vivo bioassay tests are more expensive and require more time to conduct (i.e., weeks to months) than in vitro soil tests. This poses considerable challenges to site managers faced with a need to select an appropriate test protocol. For example, on a limited budget, more soil samples can be tested by in vitro soil tests than in vivo bioassays. Analysis of greater numbers of samples allows a more thorough site characterization. Conventional sampling schemes for bioavailability/toxicity testing are possible using in vitro methods but not as feasible using bioassays. However, an important prerequisite for use of in vitro methods is documentation demonstrating that an in vitro method is strongly correlated with, and predictive of, the in vivo endpoint of interest (e.g., reproduction, shoot length, percent assimilated, etc.). The process used to construct the TPM database included critical review of each in vitro test against this prerequisite. Ultimately, these TPMs will provide site managers with decision-oriented information regarding whether the areas remediated with soil amendments are ready for reuse.

While consistency is a goal, site and regional (geographic/geologic) differences require that some degree of variation in the specific tests used will be necessary. Therefore, a prescriptive set of TPMs is not appropriate. The goal of this TPM database and search engine is to provide a range of potentially applicable TPMs in order to provide site managers with the flexibility they need to design the most appropriate testing for their sites, while still providing consistency and comparability between sites. The range of TPM options in the database currently focuses on metals, and the list is not exhaustive. The matrix is intended to be a “living” document, and users are encouraged to suggest other appropriate tests that should be included through the "Comment" feature on this site. Over time, the database also may be expanded to include other types of contaminants.

Who should use this website?

The intended users of this database and search engine are the site project managers and their technical support teams. It is assumed that a technical team includes personnel with expertise in the areas of soil science, soil amendment remediation technology, site characterization, and risk assessment (both human health and ecological). Input and review of the selected TPMs by these support persons can maximize the likelihood that appropriate and cost-effective measures are developed for the site.

When should this database and search engine be used?

The TPM website is designed for use in evaluating the performance of soil amendments used for remediation, revitalization, and reuse of sites for non-residential purposes. However, it also can be used during the evaluation and selection of remedial alternatives. For example, for the database and search engine can be used to assess bench- and pilot-scale tests of a range of soil amendments being considered for potential use at a site; the performance of any in situ technology that leaves contaminants in place; or ensuring that soil quality is appropriate for a revitalization and reuse scenario.

Consideration of this database and search engine in the development of the remedial investigation (RI) and feasibility study (FS) and any site-specific treatability studies can result in significant cost and time savings to the site. Some of the TPMs used at the end of the cleanup process are the same tests that are used to evaluate the nature and extent of contaminant and the risks posed by the site during the RI. Such consistency in test usage can provide data for comparative analysis and an early indication of the benefits from remediation by soil amendment. Therefore, the careful selection of specific tests can (1) reduce analytical costs while increasing the number of samples analyzed, (2) establish a solid database for pre-/post remediation comparisons, and (3) provide a more thorough characterization of the site.

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2.0 Using the TPM Search Engine

The following is a description of the specific steps for using the TPM search engine. Click on the TPM Search button on the left of this page to search for the specific test methods appropriate for your particular case. Each of the boxes on the search page represents a specific criterion needed to determine the TPM(s) appropriate for the evaluation of soil amendments at your site. Steps 1-3 below should be completed for each goal, if there are multiple goals for the site. Once you have completed your search and have a list of specific TPMs, click on each TPM listed to access information to support comparative analysis of the selected method. This includes 1) whether the method is a core TPM, 2) availability of the method, 3) cost magnitude, 4) degree of standardization, plus "Comments" and "More Information," if appropriate, to provide additional relevant details and references that resulted from the critical review of each method. You may view all TPMs available through the search engine, along with the comparative analysis, comments, and other information about each in the TPM Overview Table.

NOTE: Each step in the search process is iterative. When you select a goal (see Step 1 below), the search engine will adjust the range of exposure pathways available for selection in Step 2 to those that are appropriate given your goal. When you select an exposure pathway, the search engine again will adjust the range of options available for selection in Step 3 to those that are appropriate given the criteria you selected in Steps 1 and 2.

Step 1 – Selecting the Goal of the Soil Amendment Application

Using the pull-down menu for box A, select the goal of your particular soil amendment project. The following goals are currently represented in the search engine:

  • Characterize soil contamination
  • Evaluate soil health/ecosystem function
  • Reduce contaminant bioavailability
  • Reduce dust generation
  • Reduce toxicity of contaminants

Step 2 – Selecting the Exposure Pathway of Concern

Using the pull-down menu for box B, select the exposure pathway from the possible pathways listed. The following exposure routes are currently represented in the search engine:
  • Direct exposure (i.e., direct contact) from groundwater
  • Direct exposure (i.e., direct contact) from soil
  • Direct exposure (i.e., direct contact) from surface water
  • Dust inhalation
  • Food chain exposure from soil

Remember that the list you see in the pull-down menu will depend on the goal you chose in Step 1.

Step 3 – Select the Performance Measurement

Using the pull-down menu for box C, select the performance measurement (the criterion to be used) from the list of measurements shown. Depending on the goal and exposure pathway you have selected, the measurements in this list will include one or more of the following:

  • Animal bioaccumulation
  • Blood level (child Pb)
  • Community structure
  • Dietary exposure
  • In vitro gastrointestinal (bioaccessible)
  • In vivo
  • Leachability
  • Particle size distribution
  • Partitioning coefficient
  • Percent vegetative cover
  • Phytotoxicity
  • Plant bioaccumulation
  • Resuspension
  • Soil extraction
  • Soil fertility
  • Soil function
  • Soil properties
  • Spectroscopy
  • Total contaminant
  • Urine (As)
When you have completed steps 1-3, click on "Search." A results page will appear that lists the TPM(s) appropriate for your site. You can click on each TPM in the list to access additional information as noted at the beginning of this section.

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3.0 Core Technical Performance Measures

Core TPMs are:

  • Laboratory animal bioassay (ASTM 1976-07)
  • Laboratory plant bioassay (ASTM 1963-02)
  • Percent vegetative cover
  • pH
  • Plant nutrients
  • Plant tissue residue (field)
  • Pore water or in vitro extraction
  • Salinity/sodicity
  • Synthetic precipitation leaching procedure (SPLP)

When search results indicate that multiple TPMs, only some of which may be core TPMs, may be appropriate for the specific goal and exposure pathway you have selected, the methods are interchangeable as long as the same method is used consistently at the site. This will ensure that data will be comparable. In some cases, however, site-specific conditions (e.g., a particular soil constituent's tolerance limit) could further limit the list of TPMs shown through the search. The TPMs ultimately selected should address a specific question or data quality objective (DQO).

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4.0 Identifying the Specific Test Method/Data Quality Objectives

Data quality objectives and quality assurance/quality control (QA/QC) issues require specific attention in the selection and utilization of soil amendment TPMs. Data quality objectives are developed to identify the site-specific questions to be being asked and what tests or information will be used to answer those questions. This process insures not only that the correct information/data is generated but also that all of the stakeholders understand and agree with the way the data will be interpreted relative to the questions. For soil amendment TPMs, the questions to be asked typically center on the issues of chemical form, contaminant mobility, contaminant toxicity, bioavailability, and the reduction and amelioration of exposure and effects to human and/or ecological receptors.

There are protocols established for many aspects of TPMs and specific QA/QC requirements are associated with these protocols (e.g., QA/QC requirements for chemical determination and toxicity testing). These protocols use a combination of reference (background) and control samples to validate results and ensure that they meet project needs. For more specific information on data quality objectives, see EPA's "Guidance on Systematic Planning using the Data Quality Objectives Process (QA/G-4; EPA/240/B-06/001)" and the other general guidance to help users ensure the quality and usefulness of their environmental data at

When all data quality issues have been resolved and all other considerations have been weighed, you are ready to select the specific method appropriate for your site.

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EPA would like to thank all the individuals and organizations that contributed their time, thought, and effort to develop the Technical Performance Measures database. Without their efforts, the TPM website would not have come to fruition. The core group includes:

  • Dr. Dennis Neuman, Montana State University
  • Bruce Pluta, U.S. EPA
  • Dr. Ellen Rubin, U.S. EPA
  • Dr. Mark Sprenger, U.S. EPA
  • Dr. Nick Basta, Ohio State University
  • Harry Compton, U.S. EPA
  • Dr. Elizabeth Dayton, Ohio State University
  • Dr. Marc Greenberg, U.S. EPA
  • Dane Pehrman, Black and Veach

EPA also would like to thank the following collaborators to this work group:

  • Dr. W. Lee Daniels, Virginia Tech
  • Dr. Heather Henry, National Institute of Environmental Heath Sciences
  • David Reisman, U.S. EPA
  • Dr. Steve Rock, U.S. EPA

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Page Last Modified: August 12, 2011