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April 2016 - Issue 1
Welcome to the Battelle Environment Matters, a new quarterly publication from Battelle. We are putting this together as a service to our environmental services clients to keep you informed of the latest news from our researchers and the industry.
The Battelle Environmental Services team provides objective, scientifically sound solutions for commercial and government clients that balance environmental, human health and economic concerns. Battelle Environment Matters will keep you up-to-date on cutting-edge environmental research and innovations for environmental remediation, restoration, assessment, monitoring and characterization.
In an increasingly global economy, how can the U.S. ensure that trade agreements don’t result in unanticipated environmental consequences? The Environmental Governance Capacity Building Program, sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), seeks to address this growing challenge. Battelle has been selected to lead support to EPA for this initiative.
The goal of the project is to assist government agencies and institutions in Central and South America, Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and the Middle East in strengthening their capacity for environmental regulation and oversight. The five-year, $5 million cooperative agreement will focus on building technical, legal, research, analytical and program implementation capacity to address a variety of environmental challenges. The focus areas include:
Funding for the agreement comes in part through recent U.S. Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), including the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA), U.S.-Chile FTA, U.S.-Jordan FTA and U.S.-Morocco FTA, among others. Requirements for environmental governance among trading partners has been built in to many recent FTAs to ensure that trading partners are meeting minimum environmental standards required by the FTA. The ultimate goals are to promote sustainable growth, reduce environmental impacts for both the U.S. and its trading partners, and ensure that businesses in these countries are operating under similar environmental standards as businesses in the United States.
Many of the countries named in recent FTAs are developing nations without strong capacity and infrastructure to support environmental regulation and compliance. Because environmental consequences are often transnational or global, it is in the United States’ best interest to help these trading partners develop the technical, legal and programmatic capacity to set and enforce minimum environmental standards.
Battelle’s work on the initiative will build on previous work for the EPA as part of the Technical Assistance for Urban Air Quality Management program in Central America. Battelle brings extensive experience in international capacity building, including recent work in Saudi Arabia and Malaysia as well as other international development projects conducted in partnership with other U.S. federal agencies. In addition, Battelle has deep scientific and technical expertise across the environmental focus areas for this project.
The multidisciplinary team of experts put together by Battelle includes senior researchers across a range of environmental disciplines, program leaders with extensive experience in environmental governance capacity building, and regional subject matter experts who have lived and worked in the focus regions. Battelle has also contracted with other organizations to provide specific expertise. Eastern Research Group, Inc. (ERG) will provide subject matter expertise and support in the areas of municipal solid waste management, wastewater treatment inspections and air emissions inventories. Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) will assist in building capacity on public participation and environmental enforcement.
In each country or region, the Battelle team will work closely with EPA to assess local needs and provide specific training, analysis and recommendations based on the needs identified. Some of the first work will be conducted in Morocco, Chile and Honduras.
Microbes can offer targeted protection against agricultural pests—if they survive manufacturing, storage and planting. New proprietary encapsulation methods from Battelle may soon help to stabilize microbial bioformulations used in on-seed coatings.
Biopesticides offer some significant advantages over traditional synthetic chemistries. Because they are targeted to specific pests, they generally have fewer unwanted ecological effects than broad-spectrum synthetics. They also offer promising new options to control pests that have developed resistance to chemical formulations. However, biopesticides still make up only a tiny portion of the overall agrichemical market. In large part this is due to the difficulties of stabilizing the living microbial organisms, which can vary by strain. The microbes used in biopesticides must be alive at the point in the plant’s lifecycle when the targeted pest emerges. For seed protectant formulations, that means they must survive the process of applying the product to the seeds, the time spent in transit and storage, and the planting process.
Existing seed protectant products are applied on the seed. They may contain microbial and synthetic components, which work together synergistically to protect the seed and emerging plant from nematodes, insects, fungi and other pests found in the environment. Unlike synthetic chemicals, some microbes are able to colonize the plant so that their mode of action and protection becomes integrated with the root system of the plant. However, many microbes are sensitive to changes in temperature, moisture content or pH, or to the presence of other agrochemicals.
Battelle has developed an encapsulation technique that encases the living microbes in tiny polymer microcapsules. The encapsulated microbes are applied directly on the seed using the same methods agricultural and manufacturing companies already use to apply synthetic chemicals or traditional bioformulations. The capsules can be designed to open in response to different environmental triggers such as water, pH, temperature or the presence of other bacteria in the soil.
By adjusting the trigger used to open the microcapsule, researchers can time the delivery of the living microbes to the right time in the plant’s life cycle. For example, some kinds of pests in the soil may start to emerge as temperatures rise. A temperature-dependent microcapsule would release the protective microbes at the same time. Other microcapsules may be triggered by the soil pH or the first heavy rain, again releasing microbes at the point where they are needed.
Encapsulation processes can be created for a wide variety of microbes, including bacteria, viruses or fungi. The protective coating around the microbes allows them to remain shelf-stable for a longer period of time and survive a broader range of environmental conditions. It also allows the microbes to be combined with synthetic chemicals in a single application, keeping microbes separated from the chemical until they are released. Lab tests show that the encapsulated microbes can stay shelf-stable for six months or longer without a significant loss in efficacy. This increased stabilization will help to make biologics a viable and economical solution for a broader range of applications.
Balancing the diverse needs of tourists, industry, governments and wildlife in marine and coastal areas isn’t always easy. What do you do when those needs (and wants) overlap—such as when recreational activities take place in wildlife breeding areas? A short, engaging course in Marine Planning developed by Battelle uses the case study method to help planners grapple with these and other complex issues.
The course was developed for the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation’s Marine Conservation Initiative. In 2010, the Obama administration released the National Ocean Policy, which instructed agencies, states and regions to develop spatial plans for U.S. coastal areas. However, there was little consensus on what marine spatial planning was and how to do it. While extensive land-use plans and policies for dry land have been in place for nearly a century, planning for coastal and ocean spaces has lagged. The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation saw a need to develop a course to help local, state and federal resource managers comply with the new policy and make better decisions for marine and coastal areas.
From the beginning, course developers knew they wanted to make sure the course was fun, engaging and interactive. “We didn’t just want to teach the nuts and bolts, we wanted to develop a community of people who could call on each other for guidance, and we wanted to make it a fun experience,” says Mike Barrett, Research Scientist at Battelle. The Battelle team, developed a four-day Marine Planning course aimed at government decision makers at all levels. The course was based on in-depth literature reviews, national surveys and interviews with practitioners, and guided by a Steering Committee of local, state, tribal and national experts. The first live course was delivered in the spring of 2013.
To help participants engage with the material—and each other—more deeply, trainers developed a scenario built around a fictional island. Small teams work together to complete the planning process for their area of the island. Competitions between teams and occasional curveballs thrown by the course facilitators keep everyone on their toes. “We did not want to go to these regions and tell them what their plan should be. We wanted to create a scaffold where people could build their understanding, removed from local politics, and apply what they were learning in a realistic setting,” explains Barrett. “We knew a traditional lecture approach wouldn’t have as much of an impact for people.”
Tim Goodspeed, a coastal and marine resources program manager with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, after hearing from participants how valuable the course was, said that the course was “the resource” that everyone in his network should have.
Since its launch in 2013, the course has taken on a life of its own. In addition to the original intended audience of government planners, it attracts stakeholders from industry, non-profits, academics, and law firms. Barrett says, “Having these participants in the room was incredibly useful for us as we led the course and the discussions, but also for government decision makers who needed to meet with these people and hear their input. Not to mention, some of these stakeholders came in opposed to any sort of planning, and are now advocating for it, now that they understand it.” Battelle has since transferred management of course logistics to the Duke University Environmental Leadership Program, and has a roster of facilitators across the United States.
This is not Battelle’s only foray into natural resource management training. In 2013, Battelle developed a two-day course in wildlife management for an oil & gas company in Alaska. This course was designed to provide the client’s employees with information about the major federal wildlife laws and how these laws impact their company as a whole and their daily routines. This course was also very well received. It was built on the same strategy of active learning, which involves finding ways to get participants to share their experiences and ask questions to connect with each other. Battelle hopes to develop more courses in the future to help government and industry stakeholders better understand the complex issues related to natural resource management.
The Department of Defense (DoD) has a long history of supporting research and development for new innovations to address environmental challenges. For more than 20 years, Battelle has been a trusted collaborator to help bring new technologies and methods out of the lab and into the field. Battelle is pleased to continue this work with several new projects assigned under DoD’s Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) and Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP).
Recent projects include:
In addition to these projects, Battelle has been heavily involved in sediment remediation work, as well as development of educational videos to help transition the new technologies developed by SERDP and ESTCP projects to end users. Other historical work includes:
SERDP and ESTCP were created to help the DoD apply new science and technology solutions to improve their environmental performance and meet sustainability goals. SERDP invests in basic research and early-stage development projects for new environmental technologies. ESTCP provides funding for demonstration and validation of technologies that are ready to be used in the field. The two programs have been critical drivers in making new environmental solutions available for the U.S. military and other government agencies. Over the years, projects have addressed critical environmental challenges such as munitions clean up, energy efficiency and detection and remediation of emerging contaminants. Battelle has been involved with the programs since the beginning and has provided support for numerous projects across all of the program focal areas.
As the oil & gas industry increases its use of hydraulic fracturing and enhanced oil recovery (EOR), it is facing complex questions related to the use of fluids in development activities:
Battelle is refocusing analytical capabilities honed for detergent analysis to assist the oil & gas industry with environmental monitoring, forensics and risk management as well as new product development.
Fluids used for fracking and EOR are complex mixtures that may contain dozens of discreet chemicals and elements. These chemicals are added to water to modify the properties of the liquids to make them more effective. For example, fracking fluids contain surfactants to reduce the surface tension between water and oil to allow the fluid to flow more smoothly and solvents to make it easier to penetrate the rock. They may also contain gelling agents to change the viscosity, biocides to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria, anti-corrosive agents to protect pipelines and drilling equipment, antifreeze compounds and stabilizers.
Many of these chemicals are also used by the detergent industry for laundry soap, automatic dishwasher detergent and other household cleaners. Battelle has extensive experience in chemical analysis and characterization of detergents, cleaners and personal care items. For more than 20 years, the Battelle World Detergent Program has analyzed hundreds of commercial products annually to track formulation trends in the detergent industry. Battelle also brings deep expertise in hydrocarbon forensics, using sophisticated analytical methods to produce distinct “fingerprints” of hydrocarbon samples for accurate source identification.
The Battelle analytical team is now focusing those same methods on fracking and EOR fluids used by the oil & gas industry. Using methods developed for the detergent industry, analysts can determine the precise chemical makeup of a fluid sample. This chemical fingerprint can be used for accurate source attribution, much as hydrocarbon fingerprints are used for forensic purposes to determine the origin of an accidental release. Accurate source attribution is critical to help the industry control risks and liabilities. For example, it will allow companies to determine whether solvents found in groundwater come from their own operations or are from another source. The analysis will also enable better tracking and monitoring of the fluids in the environment over time.
The detailed analysis provided by Battelle could also be used to characterize samples of different fluids used in the field to identify the attributes that are associated with higher performance. Accurately characterizing the fluids will help fracking fluid suppliers better control quality and adjust formulations for higher performance, lower cost or improved sustainability.
Researchers at Battelle are working with the U.S. Navy on a closed base to assess the level of PFC contamination and characterize the associated levels of human health and ecological risks. The study will be used to help the Navy select appropriate remediation efforts.
PFCs, or perfluorinated compounds, are a commonly used ingredient in firefighting foams and in metal plating. The base being studied was previously used by the Navy as an aviation research and flight training center, and associated firefighting exercises resulted in heavy contamination of the site with the PFC-laden foams. After closure, the majority of the base was turned over to the public for development. The surrounding area now includes residential and commercial areas, parks, and a senior living center. The Navy came to Battelle for help in determining whether remaining PFCs presented a risk to people living and working in the area or to local wildlife.
Battelle has been working with the Navy in various capacities at the site since 2001, and has already completed work related to site characterization, groundwater monitoring and optimization of an existing groundwater treatment system for other kinds of contaminants. PFCs were identified as a potential problem in 2011, when new analytical methods became available and the EPA began monitoring them as contaminants of concern. Elevated levels of PFCs were found in downgradient municipal production wells and traced to the closed base as the likely source of contamination. The new study builds on Battelle’s prior work at the base but focuses specifically on PFCs.
Starting in the summer of 2016, Battelle researchers will collect samples of soil, surface water, sediment and groundwater to map the extent of PFC contamination on and around the base. Monitoring wells will be constructed to assist with delineation and long-term monitoring of PFC levels. Using this data, researchers will then perform a risk assessment to quantify the human and ecological risks associated with the levels of exposure within the PFC-impacted area.
The human health risk assessment looks at the pathways by which PFCs enter the body (e.g. inhalation, dermal or ingestion) and how they interact with body systems. It will provide an overall estimate of human risk as well as risks for specific populations such as children, pregnant women or the elderly and for specific scenarios such as wading in a contaminated stream, living in a nearby house or working near a contaminated site for eight hours per day. The ecological risk assessment will look at the ecological implications and trace the fate of PFCs as they move through the environment and through the food web.
The risk assessment will be used to make recommendations for remediation. Risk quantification allows the Navy to prioritize remedial efforts towards the areas where they will have the greatest impact for people and the environment. The work is scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2017. Once data collection and risk assessment is complete, the Navy can move on to feasibility studies for remedy selection.
The work completed at this site will be used to help the Navy develop protocols for PFC monitoring and remediation that will be implemented at other Navy sites. The Navy has collaborated closely with EPA on the PFC investigation and recently received an EPA OSWER award for their work on PFCs, due in part to Battelle’s research. This study is an important next step in further developing remediation protocols that minimize PFC risks for humans and the environment.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently issued a Record of Decision detailing cleanup plans for 8.3 miles of polluted sediments in the Lower Passaic River. In support of EPA’s Focused Feasibility Study, Battelle conducted human health and ecological risk assessments that were used to inform the decision-making process.
The Passaic River runs through Northern New Jersey, an area that has been heavily industrialized for more than a century. Throughout its history, a number of chemical plants and pesticide manufacturers were established near the river, including a plant producing the herbicide Agent Orange. The Lower Passaic is considered to be one of the most polluted waterways in the U.S. It was declared a Superfund site in 1984 when high levels of dioxin, PCBs, mercury and other toxic chemicals and heavy metals were found in river sediments.
The new decision outlines the remediation plan for the most polluted segment of the river, an 8.3-mile stretch that extends from the river’s confluence with Newark Bay to the City of Newark/Belleville Township border. The cleanup plan includes dredging approximately 3.5 million cubic yards of contaminated sediment bank to bank along the entire stretch. After dredging, an engineered cap will be placed over the entire lower eight miles of the river. The cap will prevent contamination in the sediment from entering the food chain, thereby decreasing ecological impacts and health risks to people who eat fish and crab from the lower Passaic River. The dredging will prevent the cap from exacerbating flooding and will allow for current commercial navigation to continue in the 1.7 miles of the river closest to Newark Bay. Dredged sediment will be dewatered locally and transported off-site for disposal. The estimated cost of the remedy is $1.38 billion.
Battelle contributed to the studies that informed development of the final plan under a contract with The Louis Berger Group, Inc., the technical lead for the EPA study. Battelle was primarily responsible for conducting risk analysis of potential impacts to human health and the environment. Using samples collected by EPA and responsible parties, along with mathematical models developed by HDR Hydroqual, Battelle analysts were able to quantify and predict the human and ecological risks associated with each of the proposed remedy options. EPA used these calculations to determine the best option based on risk reduction, estimated costs and overall cleanup objectives.
Battelle has a long history of risk assessment work for similar environmental projects for the EPA and other government agencies. The Battelle environmental team brings together deep expertise in environmental science, data analysis, risk assessment and remedy selection and optimization. Battelle is also currently working on the Centredale Superfund site in Rhode Island, another high-profile EPA site, with services spanning risk assessment and sample collection and analysis.
With preliminary studies complete and final decisions made, the EPA is now ready to move forward with the selected remedy. The agency is currently in discussions with responsible parties to arrange for payment for performance of the required work. The final, legally binding project design will take three to four years to complete. Dredging, dewatering and disposal of dredged materials will follow and is expected to take six years to complete. Battelle will continue to provide risk assessment support during the course of the remediation work.
Published April 5, 2016 on Agribusiness Global (agribusinessglobal.com)
Having troubles dealing with the short shelf life of biologicals? Columbus, Ohio-based contract research organization Battelle hopes to change all that.
The Battelle Environmental team is always happy to welcome new talent to help us serve our clients better. Their scientific and engineering experience will help us to continue to expand our environmental research programs and services. Please join us in welcoming our newest team members.
Corey Mocka joined the Environmental Services team this April as a Researcher specializing in Air Quality. Located in Raleigh, NC, Corey will be supporting environmental projects specifically related to air quality sampling, analysis, and auditing, including our EPA OAQPS and NATTS clients.
Corey has a B.S. in Chemistry from Suffolk University and a M.S. in Environmental Assessment from North Carolina State University. He was formerly with the North Carolina Division of Air Quality (DAQ), where he supported various roles including overseeing the state’s particulate matter network, providing technical assistance for ambient monitoring data and monitors, and providing support to over 30 environmental technicians. He is a member of the Air and Waste Management Association (A&WMA) and serves as the professional development chair of the A&WMA Young Professionals Advisory Council.
Senior Research Scientist Lisa Lefkovitz is on the front line of sediment management for Battelle and our clients. “Out of sight, out of mind” is a common approach to contamination in our oceans and coastal harbors; however, the impacts can be far reaching, since much of the human food chain starts in the sediments from these areas. “I’m working to help our industry and government clients understand the movement of contaminants in marine and coastal environments and develop more effective and sustainable remediation options,” Lisa explains.