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April 2017 - Issue 4
Welcome to the Battelle Environment Matters e-newsletter, a publication from Battelle. We are providing this as a service to our environmental clients to keep you informed of the latest news from our researchers and the industry.
Battelle 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.
What’s the best way to accurately measure trace levels of contaminants in water and sediment? Increasingly, researchers are turning to passive sampling for environmental assessment and monitoring. Battelle is working to bring new passive sampling technologies into the mainstream.
The theory behind passive sampling is simple: instead of bringing collected water or sediment back to the lab, researchers leave contaminant-attracting devices in the field, which are later collected for analysis. These devices can provide cost-effective and accurate measurement of trace levels of freely dissolved contaminants in surface water, groundwater and sediment porewater. They offer several advantages over traditional sampling methods, including:
Easy and inexpensive deployment
Better quantification of contaminants with low water solubility (which are typically present in the environment at low levels)
Elimination of the need to extract and transport large volumes of porewater for analysis of contamination in sediments
More accurate measurement of contaminant levels in an environment with fewer samples
Better insight into human health and ecological risks (as uptake of contaminants by passive samplers is similar to bioaccumulation in the tissues of marine animals)
There are two main types of passive samplers in use today:
Thin sheets of material made of low-density polyethylene (LDPE) or polyoxymethylene (POM)
Solid objects coated with specialized hydrophobic coatings, most often polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS)
Both types of samplers work by attracting and absorbing hydrophobic contaminants that are relatively insoluble in water. Hydrophobic organic compounds (HOCs)—including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), chlorinated pesticides, dioxins and furans—are well suited for passive sampling methods. These compounds are of particular interest to researchers because they tend to be highly persistent in the environment and can accumulate in the tissues of living organisms. Many of them have been linked to ecological and human health risks. Understanding how these contaminants move through the environment and accumulate in organisms is critical to making effective risk assessments and remediation decisions.
Battelle has successfully utilized LDPE- and PDMS-based passive samplers. Current research efforts are focused on LDPE sheets, which are low cost, reliable and easily adjustable in terms of sampler size, shape and geometry of the sample holder. These properties make LDPE sheets highly adaptable for a wide range of environments and contaminant concentrations.
LDPE samplers can be deployed in a couple of different ways. To measure contaminant levels in the water column, the sheets are fixed to a buoy or other structure in the water. For measurement of porewater in sediments, the sheets can be buried directly in sediment, vertically inserted into the sediment by using metal frames, or rolled-up and placed in piezometers (screened pipes inserted into the sediment). Generally, they are left for about a month to accumulate contaminants and then retrieved for analysis back at the lab. Samplers can be deployed in a grid pattern to map contaminant levels over an area and provide clues to possible sources of contamination. Their ease of use and flexibility make them an attractive option for baseline site assessment, impact analysis and long-term monitoring of restoration projects or dredging activities.
Battelle has used passive samplers for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) projects. In one USACE project at New Bedford Harbor, a passive sampler study was conducted in the Outer Harbor to analyze the flux of contamination across the sediment-water interface. As part of a comprehensive evaluation of the effectiveness of dredging as a potential remedy, Battelle also deployed passive samplers at a number of Great Lakes Legacy Act contaminated sediment sites for the EPA.
One area that Battelle is investigating is the use of passive samplers to develop bioaccumulation models to assess ecological and human health risks. The way LPDE sheets absorb contaminants mimics the way contaminants accumulate in the tissues of benthic organisms (those living on the ocean floor or in the sediment layers) and marine plankton. Because these organisms form the base of the food chain for the marine ecosystem, bioaccumulation of contaminants is often transferred and magnified up the food chain. This can result in significant ecological risks as well as human health risks in areas where recreational or commercial fishing take place. Understanding bioaccumulation in benthic organisms can help researchers build better models and predict these ecological and human health risks.
There are still challenges to overcome with passive sampling. Sampler deployment may not be easy or appropriate in all environments, especially when trying to evaluate sediment porewater in deep water. Battelle is conducting a study to evaluate the use of passive samplers to measure contaminants in collected water or sediment in the lab (rather than analyzing the collected water or sediment with traditional analytical methods). This would allow researchers to take advantage of the low detection limits of passive sampling in areas where it is not practical to leave the samplers in the field for extended times.
Battelle is continuing internal research and development to optimize passive sampler technologies and methods. This research includes studies to better understand the relationship between passive sampler uptake and bioaccumulation, evaluation of different sampler materials, designing better casings for the sampler to allow use in non-standard environments, and development of standard methods for use of passive samplers for assessment and management of contaminated sediments.
Battelle is a trusted provider of Independent External Peer Review (IEPR) services for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). As a result of knowledge gained while supporting USACE over the past decade, Battelle has adjusted its IEPR processes to better meet their needs. The new, scalable IEPR process can be easily adapted to meet specific schedule and cost requirements for USACE and other clients.
The IEPR process provides government agencies and other organizations with access to objective, independent expert reviewers to evaluate decision documents (most often environmental impact statements or feasibility reports). For USACE, IEPRs assess the economic, engineering and environmental aspects of Civil Works projects and studies. In particular, they address the technical soundness of the project’s assumptions, methods, analyses and calculations, and identify the need for additional data or analysis to make effective decisions regarding implementation of the project or selection of alternatives. Battelle supplies subject matter experts (IEPR panel members) from throughout the country with backgrounds specific to each project being reviewed to ensure that these goals are met.
Since 2006, Battelle has conducted more than 200 IEPRs for USACE, including Civil Works water resources projects and engineering design projects requiring safety assurance reviews. These projects are critical to improving human lives, restoring the environment and protecting private and public infrastructure.
Battelle provides access to experts in a broad range of engineering and environmental fields, including geotechnical and structural engineering, hydrology and hydraulics engineering, geomorphology, ecology, fisheries biology, and environmental law and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance. In addition, Battelle can reach back to expertise from across all of Battelle—including engineering, analytical services, public health, computer modeling and statistics—to meet specific project needs. This access to specific expertise allows us to quickly put together a team for each project that is ready to go on day one.
The peer review process is now completely scalable, allowing agencies to select the service level appropriate for their project. Depending on the project, that might mean two reviewers focused solely on environmental issues or a team of 10 to 12 reviewers looking at a mixture of environmental, economic, engineering and public health issues. The Battelle team can work with the client to scale the review process to the project’s specific needs and develop a project plan that meets their timeline and budget. Our process is informed by a deep understanding of the required elements for a quality review, ensuring that the final product will fully meet the client’s objectives for costs and quality.
Scientists, environmental engineers and researchers gathered this January at Battelle’s Ninth International Conference on Remediation and Management of Contaminated Sediments. The conference, held in New Orleans, brought environmental professionals together to share experiences and expertise with managing contaminated sediments and restoring waterways and coastal areas.
Battelle has hosted the biennial conference since 2001 to give people working in the field an opportunity to gather and share their latest research, present case studies and discuss regulatory changes. It is the only conference in the U.S. focused specifically on contaminated sediments. Battelle Senior Research Scientist Patricia White says, “The conference is part of Battelle’s mission to translate scientific research into societal benefit. This is part of how Battelle gives back to the research community.”
Sediment contamination is a serious problem along many coastal areas and waterways, presenting environmental and human health risks. Battelle has long been recognized as a leader in sediment management and research, providing sediment characterization and monitoring and restoration expertise, including technical support for ongoing Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund projects at New Bedford Harbor and the Lower Passaic River.
This year’s conference was attended by 1,190 scientists, engineers, regulators and other environmental professionals representing universities, government site management and regulatory agencies, R&D and consulting firms, and service providers from more than 20 countries. The technical program encompassed nearly 600 platform and poster presentations and five panel discussions presented in 51 specialized sessions. Renowned National Geographic marine photographer Brian Skerry opened the conference at the plenary session. Technical sessions were organized around five research tracks:
Characterization, Assessment and Monitoring
Management Approaches and Policy
Remediation and Restoration Alternatives
Remedy and Restoration Implementation
Environmental Processes and Modeling
Battelle’s Patricia White and Andrew Bullard co-chaired the conference. In addition, Battelle researchers presented technical work and chaired or moderated several of the sessions. Battelle presentations included:
Using Passive Samplers to Monitor Contaminant Transport in a PCB-Contaminated Estuary (Deirdre Dahlen and Lisa Lefkovitz, presenters)
Soil Cleanup from Heavily-Weathered Petroleum Hydrocarbons by In Situ Applications of Enzymatic Cocktail Encapsulated in a Biodegradable Shell (Ramona Darlington, presenter)
Comment Response Management System for the Long Island Sound Dredged Material Management Plan/Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (Stacy Pala, presenter)
Updating a Conceptual Site Model During Remedy Execution (Patricia White, presenter)
Conference proceedings are made available two years after each conference. Previous Sediments Conference proceedings (2003-2015) are available here.
The Massachusetts Water Resource Authority (MWRA) has renewed Battelle’s contract for water quality monitoring to assess potential impacts associated with the discharge of municipal wastewater effluent into Massachusetts Bay.
The MWRA Harbor and Outfall Monitoring Program is a long-term project that monitors the effects of discharging treated sewage effluent into Massachusetts Bay. The project began in 1989 when MWRA began planning for an upgraded wastewater treatment system to mitigate the ecological and water quality impacts of discharging sewage into Boston Harbor. MWRA’s Deer Island Treatment Plant was upgraded to full secondary treatment, resulting in much cleaner effluent. In September 2000, the outfall to carry effluent from the Deer Island plant to 9.5 miles offshore into Massachusetts Bay was completed. The outfall carries treated effluent to the deeper areas of the Bay rather than releasing it into shallower Harbor waters, where ecological impacts are more concentrated. MWRA continues to monitor water quality, sediment contamination and biodiversity at the outfall location and over the wider Massachusetts and Cape Cod Bays to evaluate the long-term success of the program.
Battelle has been involved with the program since the very beginning. Battelle’s early work included siting and planning for the outfall tunnel and analysis of the effluent to look for chemical and biological signatures that would allow researchers to trace its fate and transport in the environment. Battelle has continued to be involved during every contract period since. Currently, Battelle provides long-term water column monitoring services to monitor and assess the potential impact of effluent discharge at the Massachusetts Bay outfall. The 2017 contract represents the 10th contract vehicle for the project. The monitoring period for the contract extends through 2019 and analysis and reporting will be completed in 2020.
Monitoring of the effluent and its impacts on water quality and ecology in the surrounding area is required to achieve permit requirements under the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program. Created by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Clean Water Act in 1972, NPDES mandates ongoing monitoring to ensure that effluent does not contain unacceptably high levels of identified pollutants and that it does not have a negative impact on human health or the environment. The Bay outfall’s proximity to the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary makes ongoing monitoring especially important.
Monitoring includes analysis of the effluent as well as analysis of samples taken from the water column at various stations near the outfall, in addition to samples distributed over Massachusetts and Cape Cod Bays. Other monitoring activities are focused on assessment of seafloor sediments, impacts on fish and shellfish populations, bacterial levels and marine plant life. Battelle’s contract includes water column sampling and analysis as well as preparation of the final report integrating results from all monitoring activities.
Battelle recently published results of the 2015 monitoring activities showing that the outfall and water treatment initiatives fully meet NPDES permitting requirements and have had a significant positive impact on water quality and ecology in the area. Results of the monitoring program earned MWRA a National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) Platinum 9 Peak Performance Award, which recognizes facilities with 100% compliance with permit effluent limits for nine consecutive years.
During this contract period, Battelle will be working with MWRA and EPA to review the current monitoring strategy and make recommendations to optimize the monitoring program going forward. We are pleased to continue our relationship with MWRA to protect the health of this critical marine environment.
Battelle’s Norwell, Massachusetts laboratory is now accredited through the Department of Defense (DoD) Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (DoD ELAP). ELAP accreditation demonstrates that the laboratory has met DoD standards for specified environmental testing services.
This accreditation, awarded in November 2016, covers a scope of services that includes testing of specific analytes in soil, sediment, water and tissue matrices. Currently, these analyte classes include organochloride pesticides, PCB congeners and PAH. Battelle has also started the accreditation process for poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) analysis in soils, sediments and water.
Laboratories that wish to provide testing services for DoD environmental programs are required to have current DoD ELAP accreditation, which shows that the laboratory has met the requirements of the DoD ELAP Quality Systems Manual for Environmental Laboratories. The ELAP program builds on the quality system requirements of ISO/IEC 17025:2005 and the National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (NELAP), a national program developed by the NELAC Institute. Battelle has held NELAP accreditation since 2001.
Battelle’s Norwell laboratory specializes in analyzing trace organic compounds—such as pesticides, PCBs, PAHs and organotins—in complex matrices such as seawater, surface water, groundwater, sediment, polyethylene devices, semipermeable membrane devices and tissues. The laboratory also characterizes petroleum products and is a recognized leader in petroleum hydrocarbon analysis, fingerprinting and oil spill detection, tracking and response. The customized facility was built in 2014 to enhance Battelle’s state-of-the-art analytical and data management capabilities. The Norwell lab houses more than 10,000 square feet of dedicated laboratory space for extracting and analyzing sediment, soil, water and tissues to support risk assessments, monitoring programs and ecological assessments.
Battelle has provided environmental services to the DoD for decades, including environmental monitoring, remediation and restoration at U.S. Army and U.S. Navy sites. The ELAP accreditation will allow Battelle to perform associated analytical work in house, giving DoD clients a “one-stop shop” for environmental services and analysis.
Eliza Kaltenberg has been involved in many projects related to contaminated site assessment and monitoring of sediment remediation effectiveness, assisting with preparation of field sampling plans, data analysis and preparation of technical reports. She also has led or contributed to several client projects where passive samplers were used to assess hydrophobic contaminants in surface water, porewater or groundwater, either as a part of an ongoing site monitoring or with the purpose of designing a remedy or investigating possible sources of contamination. Read More