MINDING THE END
By Lenny Siegel, Michael Kavanaugh, and William Walsh
Today, most people engaged in hazardous waste cleanup in the U.S., from all
perspectives, recognize that it is essential to “begin with the end in mind”—that is, to
make decisions about characterization and remediation based upon the desired or likely
end state of the affected properties. Unfortunately, when we collectively began the task of
cleaning up contaminated soil and groundwater in America roughly three decades ago,
none of us knew what the end would look like.
Despite our best efforts and intentions as a nation, residual contamination will
remain in place, at levels that do not allow for unrestricted use and unlimited exposure, at
perhaps tens of thousands of sites throughout the nation. Many of these sites include
plumes of groundwater contamination where it is infeasible to restore the resource to
drinking water standards throughout the aquifer. Others are landfills or disposal sites
where remedial actions would simply move contaminated media from one location to
another. We may argue about when, but most sites will reach the point where active
remediation is no longer effective. The end, at these sites, is not pristine soil and
groundwater, but a state at which significant risk reduction has been achieved and the
public and the environment are protected, but where residual contamination poses a
continuing potential risk of exposure that demands “long-term management” (LTM).
Please excuse duplicate postings.
Executive Director, Center for Public Environmental Oversight
a project of the Pacific Studies Center
278-A Hope St., Mountain View, CA 94041
Voice: 650/961-8918 or 650/969-1545