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Technical protocol for evaluating natural attenuation of chlorinated solvents in ground water


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is charged by Congress with protecting the Nation’s land, air, and water resources. Under a mandate of national environmental laws, the Agency strives to formulate and implement actions leading to a compatible balance between human activities and the ability of natural systems to support and nurture life. To meet these mandates, EPA’s research program is providing data and technical support for solving environmental problems today and building a science knowledge base necessary to manage our ecological resources wisely, understand how pollutants affect our health, and prevent or reduce environmental risks in the future.

The National Risk Management Research Laboratory is the Agency’s center for investigation of technological and management approaches for reducing risks from threats to human health and the environment. The focus of the Laboratory’s research program is on methods for the prevention and control of pollution to air, land, water, and subsurface resources; protection of water quality in public water systems; remediation of contaminated sites and ground water; and prevention and control of indoor air pollution. The goal of this research effort is to catalyze development and implementation of innovative, cost-effective environmental technologies; develop scientific and engineering information needed by EPA to support regulatory and policy decisions; and provide technical support and information transfer to ensure effective implementation of environmental regulations and strategies.

The site characterization processes applied in the past are frequently inadequate to allow an objective and robust evaluation of natural attenuation. Before natural attenuation can be used in the remedy for contamination of ground water by chlorinated solvents, additional information is required on the three-dimensional flow field of contaminated ground water in the aquifer, and on the physical, chemical and biological processes that attenuate concentrations of the contaminants of concern. This document identifies parameters that are useful in the evaluation of natural attenuation of chlorinated solvents, and provides recommendations to analyze and interpret the data collected from the site characterization process. It will also allow ground-water remediation managers to incorporate natural attenuation into an integrated approach to remediation that includes an active remedy, as appropriate, as well as natural attenuation.

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