Software To Aid In Groundwater Cleanup

A software package that predicts results and timelines for cleaning up groundwater contamination is being offered free to environmental cleanup professionals, according to an Oct. 18 announcement.

The Natural Attenuation Software (NAS) was developed at Virginia Tech (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University) with funding from the U.S. Navy and in collaboration with U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) for application to groundwater systems. It was designed to help environmental cleanup professionals estimate how far underground plumes of contamination will migrate from a source, such as a solvent spill or underground gasoline storage tank leak, and how long cleanup will take with natural attenuation in various environments with or without use of the remediation technologies. Tests have recently been completed at eight sites with funding from the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) Environmental Security Technology Certification Program.

"The ability to return contaminated groundwater to a pristine state is limited, so a heavy emphasis is placed on meeting achievable remedial action objectives," said Mark Widdowson, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech. "We want to at least limit the damage and to have an objective we can reach, such as to reduce the size of the contamination plume and to take advantage of the natural attenuation capacity of an aquifer."

Widdowson said that once site data -- the type and numbers of contaminants and site characteristics -- is entered into NAS, the user can decide what level of remediation should be performed to meet the goal and how long it will take to clean up the site.

According to Widdowson, the software does not simulate the intricacies of the remediation process. However, it goes over remediation expense and effort. "We think this software will help save hundreds of thousands of dollars at each site and up to a billion dollars over the long haul," he said.

The eight DOD test sites, located on the U.S. West Coast, Southeast and Northeast, were diverse in terms of geography, hydro-geologic settings and contamination source. They were sites with long-term data sets, such as a leaking landfill site in Georgia which was a successful cleanup, Widdowson said. "We also learned from sites that are not succeeding," he said.

NAS is available free at http://www.nas.cee.vt.edu.

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