Annual International Conference on Soils, Sediments, Water and Energy review

Posted Jan 25, 2016Annual International Conference on Soils, Sediments, Water and Energy review

In October, Bob Rooks, Sr. Vice President and Principal Engineer, attended the 31st Annual International Conference on Soils, Sediments, Water and Energy at the University of Massachusetts. This is a broad-reaching and informative conference covering a broad range of topics attracting regulators, scientists, consultants, and vendors from across the country and around the world.

Contaminants of Emerging Concern, those newly-discovered pollutants that are being detected at dangerous levels in the environment, were a major focus of the conference. While we’ve all gotten used to the “typical” contaminants associated with petroleum storage and industrial operations, there are “new” chemicals that are receiving increased attention from federal and state regulators. Key among these are the perfluoroalkyl compounds such as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS). These chemicals are produced in industrial processes such as the manufacture of Teflon and other products. They are extraordinarily persistent in the environment and pose potential adverse effects for the environment and human health. 1,4-Dioxane is another analyte that you may start hearing more about because new laboratory techniques are allowing us to “see” it at much lower levels.

Bob also learned about new forensic methods incorporating the use of stable isotope analysis. These methods have long been used in the food chemistry and other businesses, and are now finding their way into the world of environmental analysis. Isotope analysis can be used to determine the source of a particular hydrocarbon, which can then be used to differentiate between different release sources. For example, hydrocarbons derived from one source of crude oil will display a markedly different signature from those derived from another source. Expect to see increased use of stable isotope techniques in vapor intrusion investigations, legal cases, and contaminant transport models.

EPA is placing new emphasis on combining remediation technologies to more rapidly reach site closure. Where traditionally, we went through extensive analysis to select “the” best remedial technique, the combined approach acknowledges that one approach might be best now, while another might be more useful once concentrations come down. With EPA’s new emphasis, we can write the combined approach into a single Remedial Action Plan or Record of Decision, eliminating additional reviews that typically slow the process. In addition to new regulatory approaches, there were numerous sessions, workshops, talks, and papers about new analytical techniques, risk assessment methods, and vapor intrusion mitigation. Vendors offered all sorts of new toys and techniques designed to solve environmental problems.

If you are in the environmental arena, Bob highly recommends this conference to get the latest and greatest information. The conference occurs on the west coast in March and at UMass each October.