Excavation, Retrieval, and Off-Site Disposal

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Introduction:

Contaminated material is removed and transported to permitted off-site treatment and/or disposal facilities. Some pretreatment of the contaminated media usually is required in order to meet land disposal restrictions.

Confined disposal facilities (CDFs) are engineered structure enclosed by dikes and designed to retain dredged materials. A CDF may have a large cell for material disposal, and adjoining cells for retention and decantation of turbid, supernatant water. A variety of linings have been used to prevent seepage through the dike walls. The most effective are clay or bentonite-cement slurries, but sand, soil, and sediment linings have also been used.

Location and design are two important CDF consideration. Terms to consider in the location of a CDF are the physical aspects (size, proximity to a navigable waterway), the design/construction (geology/hydrology), and the environmental (current use of the area, environmental value, and environmental effects). The primary goal of a CDF design is minimization of contaminant loss. Caps are the most effective way to minimize contaminant loss from CDFs, but selection of proper liner material is also an important control on CDFs. Finally, CDFs require continuous monitoring to ensure structural integrity.

Operation and maintenance duration lasts as long as the life of the facility.

Applicability:

Excavation and off-site disposal is applicable to the complete range of contaminant groups with no particular target group. Excavation and off-site by relocating the waste to a different (and presumably safer) site.

Limitations:

Factors that may limit the applicability and effectiveness of the process include:

  • Generation of fugitive emissions may be a problem during operations.
  • The distance from the contaminated site to the nearest disposal facility with the required permit(s) will affect cost.
  • Depth and composition of the media requiring excavation must be considered.
  • Transportation of the soil through populated areas may affect community acceptability.
  • Disposal options for certain waste (e.g., mixed waste or transuranic waste) may be limited. There is currently only one licensed disposal facility for radioactive and mixed waste in the United States.
  • Contaminants can potentially migrate from CDF from several pathways, including effluent discharge to surface water, rainfall surface runoff, leachate into ground water, volatilization to the atmosphere, and dike uptake.
  • CDFs can develop odor problems as well as mosquito and insect problems without proper design and maintenance.

Data Needs:

The type of contaminant and its concentration will impact off-site disposal requirements. Soil characterization as dictated by land disposal restrictions (LDRs) are required. Most hazardous wastes must be treated to meet either RCRA or non-RCRA treatment standards prior to land disposal. Radioactive wastes would have to meet disposal facility waste form requirements based on waste classification.

Performance Data:

Excavation and off-site disposal is a well proven and readily implementable technology. Prior to 1984, excavation and off-site disposal was the most common method for cleaning up hazardous waste sites. Excavation is the initial component in all ex situ treatments.

The rate of excavation depends on a number of factors, including the number of loaders and trucks operating. The excavation of 18,200 metric tons (20,000 tons) of contaminated soil would typically require about 2 months. Disposal of the contaminated media is dependent upon the availability of adequate containers to transport the hazardous waste to a permitted facility.

CERCLA includes a statutory preference for treatment of contaminants, and excavation and off-site disposal is now less acceptable than in the past. The disposal of hazardous wastes is governed by RCRA (40 CFR Parts 261-265), and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) regulates the transport of hazardous materials (49 CFR Parts 172-179, 49 CFR Part 1387, and DOT-E 8876).

DOE has demonstrated a cryogenic retrieval of buried waste system, which uses liquid nitrogen (LN2) to freeze soil and buried waste to reduce the spread of contamination while the buried material is retrieved with a series of remotely operated tools. Other excavation/retrieval systems that DOE is currently developing include a remote excavation system, a hydraulic impact end effector, and a high pressure waterjet dislodging and conveyance end effector using confined sluicing.

Cost:

Cost estimates for excavation and disposal range from $300 to $510 per metric ton ($270 to $460 per ton) depending on the nature of hazardous materials and methods of excavation. These estimates include excavation/removal, transportation, and disposal at a RCRA permitted facility. Additional cost of treatment at disposal facility may also be required. Excavation and off-site disposal is a relatively simple process, with proven procedures. It is a labor-intensive practice with little potential for further automation. Additional costs may include soil characterization and treatment to meet land ban requirements.

Additional cost information can be found in the Hazardous, Toxic, and Radioactive Wastes (HTRW) Historical Cost Analysis System (HCAS) developed by Environmental Historical Cost Committee of Interagency Cost Estimation Group.

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