Geostatistics regains interest in the characterization of chemical soil pollutions
In numerous countries, the characterization of potentially contaminated sites is a major concern when one needs to assess financial or sanitary risks but also to manage real-estate redevelopment stakes.
To evaluate the pollution impact, such characterization is usually based on various data that should be interpreted and analyzed with an estimation of related uncertainties. Geostatistics has been suitably applied in this framework for about fifteen years. Several Ph.D. theses have been dedicated to the subject, both for chemical and radiological pollution (see for instance this article in Environnement & Technique - May 2014 p.58).
Geostatistics, an appropriate solutions for the characterization of contaminated site
Thanks also to the working groups such as GeoSiPol in France, geostatistics starts to be recognized as one of the appropriate solutions for the characterization of contaminated sites. It provides a thorough methodological framework for optimizing sampling strategies, mapping the contamination and assessing the compatibility with future land use. In addition, it allows the integration of several types of measures when available: laboratory analyses, on-site measurements, geophysical surveys, etc.
However geostatistics is not a universal answer and its application requires expertise and an effective communication between the different actors. When some of these elements are lacking, it can generate disappointment and provide inadequate results. Moreover, decision makers are still lacking of an objective feedback about the benefits of such a methodology, the appropriate conditions for its application and the important underlying assumptions.
Feedback on the use of geostatistics for site characterization under process
In this framework, Geovariances and eOde have just started a project for RECORD, a French cooperative research network on waste and environment composed of industrial and institutional members. The project follows a first study which aimed at providing “a critical feedback on the use of geostatistics for site characterization, polluted either with chemical or radioactive substances”. Based on more than 20 sites that have been both characterized and remediated, the new project will evaluate the pros and cons of various characterization methodologies in terms of soil volume or pollutant mass prediction. More information soon!
Geostatistics has also been recognized as a promising solution during the 3rd conference on research about Site & Soil Pollutions organized by the ADEME agency in November in Paris. Indeed, several speakers mentioned that this methodology could bring value to tackle key issues such as uncertainty assessment, data representativeness, change of scale/support from sampling to remediation, conceptual understanding of the pollution, etc.
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