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July 2016 - Issue 2
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.
The most powerful component of many remediation plans is also the smallest: millions of invisible microbes silently degrading dangerous chemicals into less harmful byproducts. Introducing or stimulating colonies of helpful microbes can accelerate remediation of sites contaminated with a wide range of chemicals. But how do we know they are doing their job?
Next-generation sequencing (NGS) technologies can rapidly sequence the genomes of bacteria present in soil or water samples and tell us which species are present. But genomics can’t tell us if the bacteria are actively working to degrade contaminants. To get a better understanding of microbial activity and degradation rates, scientists at Battelle are developing new techniques based on the science of proteomics.
Proteomics, or the study of the proteins expressed by an organism, can give scientists a better understanding of contaminant biodegradation. The proteome is the complete set of proteins that are produced or modified by an organism. While the genome of an organism stays consistent over time, the proteome changes depending on the organism’s environment and activities. For example, the genome of a bacterium may tell us that it has the capacity to digest petroleum. The proteins that the bacterium expresses can tell us whether or not it is actually doing so.
Battelle is developing new proteomic technologies to make it easier for researchers to monitor microbial activity and estimate biodegradation rates on contaminated sites. The Department of Defense (DoD) has over 26,000 contaminated groundwater sites, with an estimated remediation cost of $12.8 billion. With over 25% of the remedies in place using enhanced in situ bioremediation (ISB) and over 50% of remedies using monitored natural attenuation (MNA), there is a critical need for accurate, cost-effective methods to monitor microbial activity and efficacy over time. A better understanding of the factors that impact bioremediation rates will help the DoD estimate remediation time and make better decisions about when to transition from active cleanup methods to passive MNA.
Current monitoring methods rely on directly measuring the rate of contaminant degradation in situ. However, direct measurement can be challenging in practice. It can be difficult to get accurate measurement of contaminant concentrations for comparison over time. When comparative measures are possible, they do not distinguish between biodegradation and chemical or physical forms of degradation.
Genomic technologies such as quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) are commonly used to determine whether specific microbes and/or genes are present and in what quantities. This is sometimes used as a proxy measurement to predict the rate of biodegradation. The presence of microbes does not, however, guarantee that biodegradation is taking place. Factors such as site geochemistry, the bioavailability of the contaminant or the absence of necessary metabolic agents such as oxygen can inhibit microbial activity. By looking at the proteome, researchers now have a way to directly measure metabolic activity associated with biodegradation.
Battelle’s patent-pending technology relies on quantitative proteomics (qProteomics) to quantify the proteins directly involved in the biodegradation of specific contaminants. The proteins and peptides that indicate that biodegradation is taking place are specific to the species of microbe involved and the contaminant that is being degraded. Quantifying the proteins and peptides in an environmental sample can tell researchers how fast degradation is taking place. Battelle has analyzed the proteins and peptides associated with biodegradation of chlorinated solvents and created reference standards that correlate protein and peptide concentrations with degradation rates. Battelle is also conducting internal research to refine sample preparation methods and develop reference standards for other types of contaminants.
Battelle’s technology is already being used to support a Department of Defense (DoD) Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP) project for the U.S. Navy. Assessment of Post Remediation Performance of a Biobarrier Oxygen Injection System at an MTBE Contaminated Site (ER-201588) will use proteomic tools to evaluate the long-term performance of remediation methods and monitor microbial activity at the site.
Herbicides, insecticides and other crop protection products are critical to maintaining and improving agricultural yields. But when they end up downwind of their intended target, they can cause unanticipated risk to the natural environment and present dangers to people, livestock and wildlife. In recent years, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has put increasing attention on these unwanted off-target affects and urged the agricultural industry to find technologies and formulations that reduce spray drift.
Battelle has developed testing protocols to determine particle size and model spray drift transport to help agrochemical companies and agricultural equipment manufacturers meet EPA regulations. Using methods that have been accepted by EPA, Battelle researchers conduct spray drift tests to determine particle size of different formulations in combination with drift control nozzle types and other parameters that affect the rate of drift for sprayed active ingredients. Battelle’s spray drift testing facility in West Jefferson, Ohio is one of only two facilities in the country that are currently equipped to conduct these studies using the protocols accepted by EPA and is the only fully GLP-compliant facility in the U.S.
EPA’s Office of Pesticides Programs (OPP) announced the Drift Reduction Technology Program (DRT) in 2014. The program, which is currently voluntary, seeks to document the effectiveness of spray application technologies on reducing pesticide spray drift. Studies must be conducted using an EPA-accepted verification protocol to determine the percent drift reduction. Once completed, the manufacturer must submit the study to EPA for review and evaluation. If the study is accepted, EPA will use the results to modify the environmental risk assessments used to develop the drift reduction measures appearing on the label of the pesticide product. Companies who are able to demonstrate a substantive reduction in the risk of spray drift for their products will be able to modify their product labels to reflect this reduction.
Battelle conducts a range of spray drift studies.
Battelle’s spray drift testing builds on more than 30 years of work in the aerosol sciences. Battelle brings deep expertise in air quality assessment, agrochemical formulation, and engineering and manufacturing equipment design. The spray drift testing team uses protocols accepted by EPA to accurately characterize particle size and predict drift potential for pesticides. These studies help companies understand how applicator design and chemical formulation impact droplet size and, ultimately, the potential for the chemical to drift. Controlled studies are used to quantify spray drift risks under different environmental conditions. All studies are conducted using approved quality programs and applicator safety regimens.
This fall, Battelle will participate in an industry consortium workshop to help refine the testing protocols. The goal is to develop an updated set of testing standards and protocols for EPA approval. Battelle has plans to work with EPA to improve the current accepted testing protocols. The refined protocols will be made available to the industry so that other facilities will be able to conduct spray drift studies that meet EPA requirements for acceptance.
Crumb rubber, also known as tire mulch, provides a soft, squishy landing on children’s playgrounds and sports fields. Made from recycled automotive tires, the material is also used on college and professional sports fields as a cushion to minimize impact injuries. But could this kid-friendly material be a hazard to their health? Battelle has started an investigation to find out.
In Battelle’s Norwell, Massachusetts analytical laboratory, a team of scientists is working with a local organization to determine the chemical content of rubber turf products sold as mulch and installed in playgrounds, gardens and other venues. After individuals in the community raised concerns about children coming into contact with this material in a new playground, the organization contacted Battelle requesting assistance in identifying potential chemical exposure.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has also expressed concern about the material. EPA recently announced a new multi-agency program, the Federal Research Action Plan on Recycled Tire Crumbs Used on Playing Fields and Playgrounds to investigate the human health and environmental risks associated with the use of crumb rubber as synthetic turf.
Children and athletes are exposed to crumb rubber dermally when they come in contact with it. There is also potential for inhalation or ingestion exposure when people impact the material with their upper bodies. Recycled rubber is in widespread use for everything from furniture to animal toys, and is generally labeled as an eco-friendly solution. However, from the preliminary research conducted in this area, it is unclear whether that label accurately applies. Crumb rubber contains numerous potential carcinogenic and toxic substances, and the exposure risks for people playing on or coming in contact with these materials is not well understood.
With Battelle’s years of work in the area of oil and gas fingerprinting, impact assessment, method development and public health risk assessment as the basis, Battelle has begun characterizing the hazards contained within this product including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and volatile organic compounds. Following this characterization, the next step will be to determine at what levels these components are released under various environmental settings and the pathways in which they can come into contact with humans and the environment. This study is an important first step to understanding the potential exposure risks of these popular playground material.
National Defense Energy & Environmental Alliance (E2A), a joint venture between Battelle and Concurrent Technologies Corporation (CTC), has been awarded one of the Department of Defense’s (DoD) multi-award National Defense Center for Energy and Environment (NDCEE) operating contracts. Under the $122.5 million indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity (ID/IQ) contract, E2A is now able to support task orders for DoD and other agencies seeking to improve their performance on environmental, safety, occupational health and energy (ESOHE) goals. E2A was recently awarded the first delivery order under the new contract, a study of citric acid passivation of corrosion resistant stainless steel Army aircraft components.
NDCEE is a centralized resource for DoD and other federal agencies to access experts focused on research, development, demonstration, validation and transition of ESOHE technologies. It serves as a national leadership organization to address high-priority environmental, safety, occupational health and energy requirements and help DoD and other agencies comply with ESOHE regulations. DoD and other federal agencies can use the contract vehicle.
Battelle has a long history of supporting DoD, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other federal agencies in meeting environmental, safety, occupational health and energy technology transfer goals. Battelle brings together deep expertise in a broad range of science and engineering disciplines, from advanced materials to analytical chemistry, in order to develop innovative solutions to these challenges. Battelle has completed numerous projects for the U.S. Navy and other clients to test, validate and deploy novel technologies. We have a proven track record in technology transfer projects that have helped the DoD, along with other agencies like EPA, identify optimal solutions and accelerate technology transfer in order to minimize environmental impacts, reduce energy use and increase each agency’s chances of meeting their sustainability goals.
The five-year NDCEE contract has 24 focus areas under which the delivery orders can be awarded::
Tourism—including ecotourism—is a vital part of the economy for many Central and South American countries. With help from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), partners of the Central America and Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) are examining the environmental impacts of tourist activities. Recently, USAID sponsored an EPA-led workshop in Honduras focused on building capacity among government workers to interpret and analyze environmental impact assessments (EIAs) for proposed tourism-related projects. Battelle’s Lynn McLeod, a Certified Environmental Professional in Documentation, was one of three trainers who presented this workshop in April to 25 government employees from Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama and the Dominican Republic.
A host of U.S. Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), including CAFTA-DR, U.S.-Chile FTA, U.S.-Jordan FTA and U.S.-Morocco FTA, require U.S. trading partners to have environmental governance programs in place that ensure that they are meeting minimum environmental standards. As part of the capacity building program, EPA’s Office of International and Tribal Affairs, in collaboration with other EPA offices, is providing training to government officials in developing nations. Training at the Honduras workshop is one example of the types of capacity-building activities Battelle has been asked to conduct under our new EPA Environmental Governance Capacity Building Programcooperative agreement.
This workshop was aimed at training government officials who will be responsible for evaluating EIAs for tourism projects and making recommendations on whether they should be approved. The two-day workshop was designed to help evaluators analyze EIAs for completeness, identify areas of weakness or questions requiring further study, and make decisions that balance environmental, economic, public health and aesthetic considerations. Resorts, hotels, cruise lines, ports, transportation hubs and other tourism-related projects can have numerous and complex impacts on their surrounding environment. Evaluators must consider how the project will impact soil and sediment pollution, water quality, erosion, marine and land ecosystems, air and noise pollution and other factors. In areas with a strong focus on ecotourism, evaluators must also consider the cumulative impacts of existing tourism and other projects.
This workshop drew upon Lynn’s years of experience helping Battelle and our clients comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). She has developed environmental impact statements under NEPA for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and many other federal agencies and commercial clients.
NEPA requires federal agencies to assess the environmental and socioeconomic effects of proposed actions before making decisions. The Technical Review Guidelines for EIAs for Tourism, prepared by EPA in 2011, provides specific guidance for making decisions on permit applications, adopting land management actions and planning construction activities. The workshop leveraged this guidance document to develop a training program specifically focused on the CAFTA-DR partners. EPA previously delivered training workshops on the environmental impacts of the mining and energy sectors to personnel from many of these same countries.
Lynn and her colleagues at Battelle will continue to work with EPA to develop training programs for U.S. trading partners over the course of the 5-year cooperative agreement. Battelle has extensive experience in international capacity building, including recent work in El Salvador, Panama, Costa Rica, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Malaysia as well as other international development projects conducted in partnership with other U.S. federal agencies.
Battelle is pleased to join VerifiGlobal, an international organization that assists technology companies and solution providers seeking market acceptance of the technologies and solutions they provide.
VerifiGlobal was formed to provide independent, third-party testing and verification services for all types of environmental technologies. VerifiGlobal Alliance members, including Battelle, will provide these services according to internationally accepted standards.
Companies seeking to enter new markets or introduce new environmental technologies can get their technology performance claims verified and join the VerifiGlobal Solutions Network based on the verifications performance by the VerifiGlobal Alliance members.
The vision of VerifiGlobal is to establish and grow an international network of technology users, providers and technical experts with a shared vision to accelerate the market adoption of innovative, environmentally sound technologies, based on the principle of “test once, accept anywhere.”
Battelle provided testing and verification services under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ETV program for 17 years and evaluated more than 160 technologies. The anticipated new International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standard for environmental technology verification (ISO 14034), expected to be announced in the fall of 2016, will provide the basis for the work completed by VerifiGlobal Alliance members.
Battelle’s prior experience spans a full range of environmental solutions, including site characterization, treatment, monitoring and other clean technologies. In addition to testing and verification, Battelle also has a long history of environmental technology development and transfer for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), EPA, and other government and commercial organizations.
Battelle is a founding member of VerifiGlobal and holds a seat on the VerifiGlobal board. Amy Dindal, a Project/Program Manager on the Battelle Environmental Services team, currently serves on the board.
Battelle has been selected to continue to support the United States Navy for the next five years with environmental program support and technology transfer services. The Environmental Security Technology Services (ESTS) contract is an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract with a maximum value of $99.5 million.
ESTS continues Battelle’s 25-year history of environmental support for the Department of Defense (DoD) and is the fifth consecutive contract to be awarded to Battelle.
“We’re thrilled and honored to continue our long history of working with the Department of Defense to help meet their greatest environmental and sustainability challenges,” said Russell Sirabian, Program Manager for the contract. “Our unique capability in integrating research and development, technology transfer and remedy selection and optimization provides innovative and technically sound solutions to key challenges.”
The contract supports the environmental stewardship mission of the Department of Navy (DON) and the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) program. The work may include technology implementation, technical consultation, training, strategy development, research and administrative services. While work may occur at various local and international Navy and Marine Corps installations and other government facilities worldwide, the contract vehicle will primarily be used to support Navy and Marine Corps environmental programs within the U.S.
Battelle has a long and rich history of performing this type of work for the U.S. government, military and private industry. With cross-disciplinary environmental service teams, we develop and apply innovative, cost-effective methods and technologies to protect human health and the environment and restore value to our greatest natural resources.
Over the last 25 years, Battelle has successfully completed numerous environmental projects for the U.S. Navy and DoD to help them reach their environmental goals in a cost-effective manner. Prior work spans site assessment, remedy selection and optimization, long-term monitoring and site closure. Battelle’s internal research programs give us a unique capability to find and apply new methods to solve the difficult environmental challenges encountered on military bases. Battelle continually reinvests in internal programs that can be leveraged to support our clients. Current internal projects include research in emerging contaminants, proteomic and metagenomic monitoring methods, and the use of fungal enzymes for bioremediation. We also have extensive experience in technology transfer programs, including selection, optimization, scale up and training programs.
Key projects that are expected to continue include support of compliance and sustainability programs at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center (MCAGCC) in Twentynine Palms, CA; investigation and remediation of perfluorinated alkylated substances (PFAs) at the former Naval Air Warfare Center (NAWC) in Warminster, PA; research into application of innovative technologies; as well as development of training and technology transfer tools and other challenging projects.
New Bedford Harbor is getting cleaner year by year, thanks in part to scientists at Battelle.
The Battelle Environmental Services team supports the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) at one of the Environment Protection Agency’s (EPA) largest Superfund cleanup sites. New Bedford Harbor, off the coast of Massachusetts, was placed on EPA's National Priorities List in 1983 due to high levels of contamination with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and heavy metals. PCBs are organic chlorine compounds that were commonly used in electronics production until they were banned by EPA in the 1970s. They are highly persistent in the environment and have significant ecological and human health concerns.
The remedy includes dredging and disposal of more than 900,000 cubic yards of PCB-contaminated sediments from the bottom of the harbor as well as cleanup in surrounding wetlands. Battelle provides environmental monitoring, assessment and analytical testing services for the project under a contract with USACE New England District, North Atlantic Division (NAE). The Battelle team delivers comprehensive services including field data collection, laboratory analysis, database management and planning support. The team monitors sediment to confirm PCB concentrations during and after dredging. They also monitor water quality to assess the impact of dredging operations on water. Testing includes physical and chemical analyses, bioassay testing, benthic infauna analyses and in situ water quality measurements.
Battelle has been involved with the site in various capacities since the 1980s. During the 80s and 90s, Battelle performed physical and chemical modeling to characterize PCB transport patterns. The data generated helped to inform the creation of the original 1998 cleanup plan. Battelle has supported USACE NAE through four environmental consulting services contracts since 1996. Under the latest contract, awarded in 2012, the Battelle team provides a broad range of services, including:
In addition to field collection and laboratory analysis, the Battelle team provides strategic planning support. Planning activities have focused on determining how to sequence the cleanup activities to prevent recontamination of dredged areas, as well as how and when to perform the confirmatory sampling that will allow EPA to close the site. Battelle also designed, implemented and continues to maintain the database, which now contains more than 500,000 individual records.
Battelle also provides long-term monitoring (LTM) support for the project. Battelle conducted the 2004 and 2014 LTM studies to evaluate chemical and ecological conditions before, during and eventually after dredging. Battelle has also conducted groundwater monitoring at the Confined Disposal Facility (CDF) to evaluate the integrity of the CDF.
The project has required the long-term support of more than a dozen team members, not including staff at the analytical lab in Norwell. From 2004 through June 2015, Battelle logged over 250 field days; analyzed more than 1,000 physical, chemical and biological samples; and prepared more than 100 field, technical and compliance documents to support pre-dredging design, construction monitoring, long-term monitoring and intertidal sampling in New Bedford Harbor. The Battelle team is led by Project Manager Deirdre Dahlen and Technical Lead Patty White. Senior Research Scientist Lisa Lefkovitz is the Contract Manager for the USACE NAE contract.
The New Bedford Harbor cleanup project was significantly accelerated in 2013 thanks to a settlement with AVX Corporation, one of the largest settlements in the history of the Superfund program. Battelle has provided significant planning, data collection and analytical support to assist EPA and USACE NAE with the acceleration of the cleanup project. The Battelle Environmental Services team will continue to support the New Bedford Harbor cleanup effort at least through 2017, when the current contract period expires.
By David G. Borkman, P. Scott Libby, Michael J. Mickelson, Jefferson T. Turner, Mingshun Jiang
Abundance of the prymnesiophyte Phaeocystis pouchetti was quantified via light microscopy at 2-week to monthly intervals in Massachusetts Bay (southern Gulf of Maine, NW Atlantic) during 1992–2012. Variability in the abundance and seasonal cycle of Phaeocystis are described and synoptic hydrographic, nutrient, and meteorological data were analyzed to identify factors that may influence Phaeocystis abundance. The maximum Phaeocystisabundance was 14 × 106 cells L−1 (10 Apr 2008). It was frequently (5 of 8 years) absent prior to year 2000, but not thereafter. Seasonally, it first appeared in February to early March, reached peak abundance in mid-April, and persisted until May or early June for a duration of 0–112 days (mean 34 days). A long-term alternation between Phaeocystis and centric diatom abundance was apparent, suggesting winter-spring selection of either Phaeocystis or centric diatoms. Phytoplankton community analysis suggested that blooms affected the rest of the phytoplankton community. Phaeocystis blooms were manifest as a substantial increase in particulate nutrients above normal levels. Phaeocystis blooms were preceded in February by a slightly elevated concentration of NO3 (9.3 vs. 6.5 μM when absent) and PO4(0.99 vs. 0.79 μM when absent). Blooms were also preceded by elevated ratios of NO3/PO4, NO3/Si, and PO4/Si, and warmer, saltier waters reflecting reduced river discharge. The correlation with salinity and river discharge suggests that Phaeocystis bloom variability is partially determined by annually varying circulation processes that determine the degree of low nutrient, low salinity coastal water intrusion into Massachusetts Bay.
Read the full paper in Estuaries and Coasts.