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October 2017 - Issue 6
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.
Characterizing, monitoring and remediating contaminated sites is complex and challenging work. When the work has to be done in remote locations that are inaccessible for much of the year, the job gets that much harder.
Battelle has risen to this challenge taking on work at three former U.S. Navy bases in Alaska. Battelle is leading work on a contract for the U.S. Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Northwest. The sites include the former Adak Naval Air Facility on Adak Island; the former Icy Cape Distant Early Warning Line Station, located on the northwestern coast of Alaska; and the former Cape of Prince Wales Naval Field Station in Wales, AK—the westernmost point of the mainland U.S.
All three sites were decommissioned in the decades after the cold war. However, significant environmental remediation remains to be done on and around these former naval bases. Battelle has supported NAVFAC Northwest since 2007 in a variety of capacities, including field sampling, remedial investigations, human health and ecological risk assessment, independent quality assurance (QA) and evaluation of potential remedy options.
On Adak, located near the tip of the Aleutian Island chain, Battelle has provided independent QA for munitions remediation efforts since 2007. The Adak base was originally established in 1943 in response to Japanese invasions on the Aleutian Islands of Kiska and Attu. Afterwards, it became one of the Navy’s primary early warning sites during the Cold War. Training exercises during WWII and the Cold War left the base contaminated with hazardous munitions and petroleum byproducts. The Navy closed the facility in 1997 under the Base Realignment and Closure Act (BRAC) and began environmental cleanup under NAVFAC NW. Most of the land and facilities have since been transferred to The Aleut Corporation, but cleanup work continues to this day. Battelle provides oversight and technical expertise to ensure the quality of field sampling efforts and remediation activities. In 2016, Battelle completed a Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) Five-Year Review for the site. The team is currently working to update the Comprehensive Management Plan, which provides guidance for all institutional and engineering controls and long-term monitoring (LTM) activities. Moving forward, Battelle will be engaged in investigating petroleum contamination on the site.
Icy Cape, a former Distant Early Warning Line defense site, was decommissioned after the Cold War, leaving behind landfills, fuel tanks, and soil and water contaminated with PCBs, petroleum hydrocarbons and other chemicals. The Battelle team has been conducting fieldwork on the site since 2016. Battelle is currently in the final stages of the remedial investigation (RI), with the final RI report expected to be complete in 2018. As part of the RI, the team is performing human health and ecological risk assessments. A feasibility study will be prepared once the RI is complete that will look at various remedy options for the contaminants identified in the RI.
Cape of Prince Wales
Cape of Prince Wales Naval Field Station was closed after the cold war and used as a weather station and arctic research lab through the 1970s. Preliminary remediation efforts began in the 1980s and 1990s. The site has since been turned over to the local Wales community, but concerns remain about contamination on the site. NAVFAC has contracted with Battelle to conduct a hazardous material/waste investigation to determine what kinds of contaminants remain in soil, groundwater and sediments on the site. Battelle will also be responsible for QA and development of an Environmental Protection Plan and Waste Management Plan for the site. The work will also include cost assessments of potential remedies for contamination around a former garage site.
Performing this work in the far north presents unique logistical challenges for the Battelle field teams. The research windows are short due to weather conditions and other considerations such as endangered species migrations and hunting activities by indigenous people. There may be only a few short weeks each summer for collection of field samples at the sites. The locations are all remote with limited options for transportation in and out and few locally available supplies. That means everything the research team will need, from food supplies to clothing to research equipment, must be thoroughly identified in advance and flown in with the research teams. Teams are away from their families for extended times and may be working long hours with few modern conveniences. And then there are more unique risks, like polar bears and other wildlife.
Over the years, Battelle researchers have put thousands of hours into fieldwork at the sites. Their work is helping NAVFAC move these sites forward through the next stage of remediation activities and towards eventual site closure. Battelle has received exceptional ratings for the quality of the work for each of the years we have worked with NAVFAC. The research teams have also established excellent relationships with the local communities around the sites, which have proven to be tremendously valuable.
Battelle brings a unique blend of competencies to the NAVFAC work. The teams working in Alaska have deep experience in conducting field sampling activities for a broad range of potential contaminants in soil, sediment, water and biological tissue. This field experience is backed by Battelle’s analytical laboratory capabilities and overall environmental science expertise. This allows us to offer comprehensive, end-to-end services for NAVFAC and other clients that span everything from field sample collection and risk analysis to remedy selection and site closure strategy.
Genomic analysis of microbial communities in contaminated sites can confirm the presence or absence of microorganism with the potential to break down contaminants. But how do you know if they are actually doing the job? The emerging science of proteomics provides insights into the metabolic activity of microbial communities that can help researchers better predict natural degradation of contaminants and determine whether sites are good candidates for monitored natural attenuation (MNA).
Battelle has validated proteomic methods that can be applied to a variety of contaminants, including emerging contaminants of interest like PCBs and munitions constituents. Just like DNA, proteins act as unique biological markers for a species. While genomic sequencing uses sequencing of DNA, proteomics uses nanoLC coupled with high-resolution mass spectrometry for identification and quantification of peptides of interest. The presence of protein shows not only the presence of a species but also indicates the metabolic activity. Protein analysis can, therefore, be used to determine whether or not a microbial species with the capacity to biodegrade a contaminant is actually doing so, and at what rate.
Proteomics can thus provide better insight into how quickly contaminants can be expected to biodegrade naturally. This information can be used to inform decisions on whether or not a site should be moved to MNA, which is significantly less expensive than active remediation. It could also be used to evaluate and monitor the success of remediation activities including bioaugmentation (in which microbial species with the capacity to biodegrade a contaminant are directly added to a site) or biostimulation (in which substrates are added to promote the growth of naturally occurring microbial communities). Battelle is researching these and other applications that could benefit from proteomic assessment methods.
We are currently working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to apply proteomics methods to chlorinated solvents such as tetrachloroethene (PCE) and trichloroethene (TCE). We are also finishing project work with the Navy where proteomics was applied to assess degradation of methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE), a gasoline additive, at contaminated sites.
There are approximately 26,000 military sites known to have groundwater contaminated with chlorinated solvents. Chlorinated solvents are a family of chemicals used for a wide variety of commercial and industrial purposes, including degreasers, cleaning solutions, paint thinners, pesticides, resins and glues. They have been linked to long-term health effects that include damage to the nervous system, kidneys, or liver, chronic skin conditions and cancer.
Active cleanup of U.S. Army sites contaminated with chlorinated solvents is estimated to cost nearly $13 billion. Moving some of these sites to less active measures or MNA could save billions of dollars.
Battelle is applying proteomics to the problem through a project funded through the Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP) program. The objective of the study is to clearly define and validate correlations between in situ degradation rates of TCE and other chlorinated volatile organic compounds (cVOCs) and quantities of biomarker genes, transcripts, and key proteins. Initial studies by our research team have correlated the abundance of specific proteins with cVOC degradation. These correlations will be confirmed in microcosm tests and verified at a DoD field site. This study expects to demonstrate that (1) proteomics provides additional information and enhances the value of currently accepted environmental molecular biological tools (MBTs) for contaminant biodegradation monitoring, and (2) integrated quantitative nucleic acid- and protein-based biomarker analyses can inform in situ degradation rates.
For this project, Battelle is working closely with collaborators at USACE, The University of Tennessee, Scissortail Environmental Solutions, LLC, Oregon State University and CB&I Federal Services. The project team includes internationally recognized remediation experts who are working together to advance the methodology.
Moving forward, Battelle is continuing research into the use of proteomics for other types of contaminants and refining methods for proteomic analysis. Our combination of analytical and field expertise, specialized equipment and trained technical staff allow us to provide integrated solutions for proteomic analysis that can be applied to a broad range of environmental challenges.
Contaminated sediments present significant remediation challenges. For nearly two decades, Battelle has worked with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Research and Development (ORD) to advance new methods and technologies for sediment characterization, monitoring and remediation.
The ORD’s mission is to study the technical aspects of environmental restoration and provide guidance to support EPA’s programs and regional offices. Since 2000, Battelle has supported several long-term, multi-faceted ORD research studies at contaminated sediment sites for ORD’s National Risk Management Research Laboratory (NRMRL). Most notably, these include the Sangamo Weston/Twelve-Mile Creek/Lake Hartwell Superfund site in South Carolina, where monitored natural recovery (MNR) was the selected remedy, and two dredging sites in Ohio overseen by the Great Lakes National Program Office (GLNPO)—the Ashtabula River and Ottawa River areas of concern (AOCs).
Our work with ORD spans every aspect of site characterization and monitoring for contaminated sediments, including development of data quality objectives (DQOs) and quality assurance project plans, field planning, field sample collection (deploying our own vessels and field staff), laboratory analysis, and data interpretation. Battelle brings extensive experience in quality assurance for sediment projects, ensuring that sample collection and analysis is conducted using rigorous quality controls to ensure defensible results.
At the Ashtabula River AOC, GLNPO conducted dredging operations in 2006 and 2007 to remove sediments contaminated with PCBs. Battelle conducted a baseline (pre-dredge) sediment characterization in 2006 and follow-up monitoring surveys during dredging, immediately after dredging, and for five years after remediation. Researchers examined multiple lines of evidence to monitor recovery and track the fate and transport of contaminants through the environment.
These lines of evidence included:
For two decades, Battelle has worked with ORD to develop, evaluate and deploy new passive sampling technologies and methodologies for their use in the field. Battelle’s team has acquired extensive expertise in sampler preparation, field deployment design, chemical analysis (including selection and analysis of performance reference compounds [PRCs]), and interpretation and application of chemical results. The team is now using the methodologies they have developed at multiple sites across the U.S. for EPA and other agencies including the Department of Defense (DoD).
Lessons learned from studies at these sites have driven the development of resource documents that help various stakeholders understand contaminant fate and transport at these sites, as well as how contaminated sediments can be monitored and assessed at other remediation sites across the U.S. Resources include EPA’s Technical Resource Document on Monitored Natural Recovery, developed by Battelle for the NRMRL. Recently, Battelle worked with GLNPO and ORD to conduct a Remedy Effectiveness Assessment (REA) for the Ashtabula River AOC—the first REA to be produced for a GLNPO site.
Battelle’s work with EPA continues today. The REA for the Ottawa River AOC is currently under development with the final report expected in 2018. Battelle continues to support EPA’s mission at sites in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and Minnesota. As remediation efforts at these and other EPA sites continue, Battelle will be working to move emerging technologies and methods forward to improve data collection and analysis and to support EPA decision making.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District (USACE-NYD) has contracted with Battelle to provide analytical services to evaluate contamination levels in dredged sediments. Results of these analyses will aid the USACE-NYD in their environmental decision-making process to determine the suitability of dredged material for placement at a remediation site.
Under the new contract, Battelle’s Analytical Chemistry Services Laboratory will conduct analyses of sediment, water and tissue samples for organic compounds. Additional support will be provided for high-resolution analyses of dioxins and furans.
USACE-NYD is responsible for managing federal navigation in New York and New Jersey waterways. Dredging of navigation channels, berthing piers and anchorage areas in the Port of New York and New Jersey is essential as fine-grained sediments transported by rivers settle and accumulate, causing shoaling that interferes with safe navigation. Existing navigation channel depths are maintained to allow adequate clearance for ocean commerce, and deeper navigation channels are excavated to ensure that the newest and largest deep-draft cargo ships have access to New York and New Jersey port facilities. Maintenance dredging alone generates approximately one to two million cubic yards of sedimentary material annually from New York and New Jersey waterways.
Historically, dating as far back as the mid-1800s, most of the material dredged from the Port had been disposed in the Atlantic Ocean in and around an area commonly known as the “Mud Dump Site.” As environmental regulations have improved to minimize adverse effects of contaminants associated with some dredged materials on ecosystems, living resources and human health, environmental agencies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and USACE, worked to end ocean dumping in New York. In 1997, EPA closed the Mud Dump Site and surrounding areas that had been used historically as disposal sites for dredged materials and simultaneously re-designated the site as the Historic Area Remediation Site (HARS).
The preferred disposal option for dredged material from New York and New Jersey ports and harbors is to beneficially reuse this resource to cover or cap legacy sediments at the HARS. Only sediments classified as Category I (clean, uncontaminated sediments that cause no adverse biological or bioaccumulative effects) are permitted for placement at the HARS. With time, placement of this material should remediate the site by reducing impacts to acceptable levels and improving habitat conditions for bottom-dwelling organisms.
Sediments from proposed dredging projects are subjected to standardized chemical analyses as part of the suite of physical, chemical, and biological tests to determine suitability of sediment for HARS remediation. Work conducted under USACE-NYD by Battelle’s Team helps USACE-NYD understand the dredged material’s chemical content and physical attributes and evaluate its suitability for HARS placement.
The National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) was born of a grand vision: a network of research stations that would enable observations of ecological change on a continental scale. With a planned 81 terrestrial and aquatic field stations across the United States with the potential to produce hundreds of different data products, NEON is the most ambitious ecological research project ever envisioned.
But bringing that vision to life has required unprecedented logistical planning and execution. Planning for NEON began in 2006 and construction for the NEON observatories was approved in 2011. When Battelle took the reins as the lead contractor overseeing construction in June of 2016, only 20% of the planned field stations were operational. Over the last 15 months, Battelle has brought another 40% of the field stations online and tripled the number of data products the stations are producing.
Fully 61% of the NEON infrastructure has now been transitioned from Construction Phase to the Initial Operations Phase. All but three of the 81 sites are anticipated to be fully operational and producing data products by April of 2018. Two field stations, one in Hawaii and one in Wyoming, will complete construction by August 2018. Two additional stations in California have completed the Construction Phase and will begin producing data products once environmental permitting issues are resolved.
When Battelle took over in 2016, construction was proceeding slowly. The Battelle team quickly realized that this was due in part to the way the construction and operational teams had been siloed, leading to disconnects between the teams and with the National Science Foundation (NSF), which funds the NEON project.
Battelle’s first order of business was to break down these silos and establish clear lines of command and communication between construction, operations and NSF. This transparency and unity of command has been instrumental in moving the project forward.
The new project teams are built on well-established principles of project management that Battelle’s leadership team has honed over decades of work on large, complex scientific projects and laboratory management. Each portion of the project is directed not by a single manager but by a collaborative project team that works together to ensure that the needs of all stakeholders are met.
Successful completion of the NEON network hinges on looking at the needs of all stakeholders equally. This includes NSF, who as the funder must ensure that the project is completed within the set timelines and budgets. The other primary stakeholder is the scientific community who will be using the data products produced by NEON.
Battelle brings a unique ability to understand the needs of both sides. For decades, Battelle has managed seven of the National Labs, overseeing federal projects and budgets worth billions of dollars. They also bring extensive scientific expertise in environmental science, ecology, analytical chemistry, data analytics and other areas related to NEON’s mission. The Battelle team brings not only excellence in program and project management but also a deep understanding of the end goals that NEON is aiming for, how data products will ultimately be used by the scientific community, and the realities of field data collection.
The Battelle team is led by Rick Farnsworth, who acts as Senior Program Manager for the NEON construction project. Rick has been with Battelle since 2004 and overseen several large-scale projects, including a multi-year contract for the Department of Defense for Biothreat Reduction. Tom Gulbransen, a Battelle Senior Research Scientist with 32+ years of data science experience, oversees cyberinfrastructure and development of data products. Larry Davidson manages site construction, and Ellie Baptiste-Carpenter is in charge of the initial operations phase of the observatory network. The team is rounded out by Verna Tomanik, Lead Financial Analyst, and Kathy Kirby, Deputy Program Manager in charge of risk management and permitting.
They are working together with dozens of other environmental scientists, construction managers, engineers, data scientists, project managers and field operational specialists to bring the NEON network online. Many of these team members were retained from the NEON, Inc. phase of the project, bringing valuable institutional knowledge gained from the first years of construction. The remaining members are pulled from among the best and brightest in Battelle to round out the team with additional scientific, data analytics and project management experience. Battelle also brings a unique capacity to reach back across the entire Battelle organization to find scientific and engineering expertise to address specific challenges.
When NEON goes fully online in 2018, it will be the largest ecological observatory network in the world. By the end of 2017, all of the data products—encompassing 180 terrestrial, aquatic and airborne field observations and sensor data points—will be complete and available online for anyone in the scientific community to use. The breadth and depth of data across all of the biomes in the United States will provide an unprecedented view into how ecosystems are adapting to changes in climate, land use and the introduction of invasive species.
The breakneck pace of construction and product development that the team has maintained over the last 15 months will continue into 2018 as the data products are rolled out to the public and scientific community and the remaining observatories come online. NSF recently announced that Battelle’s contract, originally set to end in March of 2018, will be extended through October 31, 2020, with an option to extend through October 31, 2021. During this time, the Battelle team will oversee the transition of all of the observatories from construction phase to operations and the initial phase of field and sensor data collection.
“This is transformative science that has never been done before, and the data will be free to anyone who wants to use it,” says Rick Farnsworth. “This is the most egalitarian scientific project that has ever been conceived. We’re making environmental data available to anyone in the world with a web connection, not just to the scientific elite. There is no telling what will happen when you open up that kind of access. You never know who is going to change the world.”
Battelle has completed verification of RemScan™, a portable handheld instrument for rapid field measurements of total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPHs). It is the first technology to be verified under the new VerifiGlobal Performance Verification Protocol for environmental technologies consistent with the requirements of ISO 14034.
VerifiGlobal was launched in response to the new ISO 14034 standard for verification of environmental technologies, which went into effect in November of 2016. It is composed of a consortium of companies and organizations providing independent, third-party testing and verification services for all types of environmental technologies under the new standard. The VerifiGlobal Performance Verification Protocol supports performance measurement and verification across multiple international jurisdictions. The goal is to provide global verification services that allow companies to “test once and sell anywhere.” John Neate, Managing Director of VerifiGlobal, explains, "VerifiGlobal is a comprehensive performance verification platform with global market reach, offering the flexibility of working with local experts and testing organizations."
Battelle is a founding member of VerifiGlobal and holds a seat on the VerifiGlobal board. Battelle has a long history of testing and verification for environmental technologies under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ETV program. They also provide environmental technology development and transfer services for EPA, the Department of Defense (DoD) and other government and commercial organizations. Battelle’s work for VerifiGlobal builds on decades of experience with environmental technologies for characterization, treatment and monitoring of contaminated sites.
To be recognized as a VerifiGlobal verification provider, Battelle completed a peer assessment conducted by other VerifiGlobal Alliance members. The review confirmed that Battelle’s verification processes are compliant with ISO 14034 and the VerifiGlobal Performance Verification Protocol. With this conformity assessment completed and documented, Battelle can conduct independent verification and testing services on products that environmental technology companies are aiming to bring their services to new markets around the globe.
RemScan is the first technology to complete verification and be granted a certificate under VerifiGlobal’s ISO 14034 protocol. The VerifiGlobal certificate shows that RemScan has been independently reviewed and shown to deliver the performance claimed by the company as detailed in the verification statement available on the VerifiGlobal website. Because the verification was completed using ISO 14034 standards, the VerifiGlobal verification statement will enable it to be marketed in all areas of the world that recognize ISO 14034.
Rick Wice has devoted his career to cleaning up and managing difficult contaminated sites. Now, he’s bringing his expertise to Battelle to help our clients find better solutions for sites impacted by chlorinated solvents, PFAS and other hard-to-remediate contaminants. Read More