Dirty Dirt: The hazards of soil pollution, and what to do about it

SoilcontamSoil pollution is the build-up of toxic substances in concentrations high enough to be hazardous to human health, wildlife and the natural ecosystem. Contaminated soil can have serious health effects on humans, as well as the environment.

Health effects on humans include organ damage, increased risk of cancer, and bioaccumulation, or the transfer of pollution throughout the food chain. Regular monitoring of soil quality can help prevent exposure to dangerous contaminants.

But what do you do if you think your soil might be polluted? EFS provides complete and innovative remediation services for addressing contaminated sites. Our remediation services include: demolition, excavation, transportation and disposal of contaminated soil, construction and installation of in-situ remediation systems, and more. Click here to see how EFS can help you remove contaminated soil.


What We Do – Part 3: Operation and Maintenance

#1 pressure washing AlphaEFS has experience with the installation, operation and maintenance of remediation and pollution control systems. EFS is capable of taking designs prepared by others and constructing remediation systems in accordance with client specifications. Following installation, EFS personnel will operate and maintain these systems during their operating life. In the area of pollution control, we provide inspection, monitoring and maintenance services for all types of industrial, air, water and wastewater pollution control systems.

Our Operation and Maintenance Services include:

  • Remediation System Start-Up and O&M
  • Facility Decontamination/Industrial Cleaning
  • AST & UST Cleaning
  • Wastewater Treatment Plant Operation
  • Groundwater Monitoring
  • Drum Sampling, Overpacking, & Removal

To learn more about our services, click here.

EFS looking to fill open positions

were_hiringDriven by bold vision and a strong entrepreneurial spirit, EFS has evolved into a diverse environmental contracting firm focusing on soil and ground water remediation, subsurface sampling, monitoring well installation, and industrial services. Do you have what it takes to join our team? Click here to see our available opportunities.

#DidYouKnow EFS has experience working on Superfund Sites

Excavator Blue Sky#DidYouKnow that EFS has experience working on dozens of Superfund Sites across the United States?  Below is an example of a Superfund Site where EFS performed work in recent years.

Environmental Field Services, Inc. (EFS) was contracted by a client to provide soil mixing services for the site located in Ashippun, Wisconsin.

Prior remediation efforts consisting of a groundwater pump and treat system operated at the site until 2004. An amendment to the Record of Decision (ROD) modified the treatment strategy to excavation or in-situ treatment of hot spot areas in order to meet the remedial action objectives for the site in a shorter time period.  In – situ treatment was selected as the remedy and this phase of work focused on five specific “hot spot” source areas containing elevated concentrations of trichloroethylene (TCE) in soil and groundwater.

Initial site activities included the establishment of staging and laydown areas, and installation of erosion control measures.   Following set up, EFS excavated and stockpiled 215 cubic yards of clean topsoil and 1,160 cubic yards of overburden soils to access the treatment intervals.

Soil mixing was performed to promote in situ chemical reduction through biotic and abiotic degradation mechanisms with the addition of Daramend®, a proprietary products that consists of a soluble substrate and zero valent iron (ZVI).  Daramend® was delivered in bulk and blended on site and delivered to the targeted treatment intervals using an excavator mounted dual axis mixing tool to depths of up to 18 feet below grade.  Post mixing verification sampling confirmed the achievement of design mix ratios in each of the treatment cells.  Geotextile fabric was installed and each treatment cell was backfilled to grade with the overburden soils and topsoil.  Following topsoil placement, each area was reseeded to promote site restoration.

A list of current Superfund Sites can be found on the EPA’s website. Click here to see if there are any sites close to where you live.

OSHA Makes a Final Rule for Workers’ Protection from Respirable Silica Dust

OSHA recently made the final rule to improve workers’ protection from the hazards and dangers of respirable silica dust. The rule will help to precent lung cancer, silicosis, and other health issues by limiting exposure of workers to the silicia dust. The previous exposure limits were said to be outdated and allowed workers to be placed in harmful situations, now the new rule brings the “workers’ protections into the 21st century,” as stated by Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels. OSHA states that the new ruling “will save more than 600 lives annually and prevent more than 900 new cases of silicosis – an incurable and progressive disease – each year.”

The final rule is actually divided into two parts, one for construction and one for general industries and maritime. This allows for more workers’ to be covered and protected in more efficient ways. While the rule mainly reduces exposure limits for workers, it also requires employers to utilize engineering controls, such as better ventilation or water, provide respiratory protection when other controls arent sufficient enough, and train workers so that they can better protect themselves. To read the full news release, click here. To read the entire final ruling, click here.

All information was found in the OSHA news release and in the final ruling. 

Understanding Complex Remediation Waste Issues – Part 2

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) has been in place for several years and still creates many complex questions when relating to contaminated environmental media on remediation projects. Contaminated media can be generated through:

  • Excavation,
  • Investigations (with investigation derived wastes),
  • In-situ soil or groundwater treatment producing waste residuals, and
  • Other waste generating or construction activities.
  • Typical questions arise from complex issues relating to:
  • (1) Generator waste determinations for contaminated media,
  • (2) Unknown source wastes,
  • (3) Contained in listed wastes,
  • (4) Exempt/Excluded wastes, and
  • (5) Land Disposal Restriction (LDR) application.

*Section 3, 4, and 5 from above are each discussed below and sections 1 and 2 are presented in “Understanding Complex Remediation Waste Issues – Part 1” in the October newsletter.

Contained in Wastes

USEPA, initially required that mixtures of listed hazardous waste and non-hazardous waste be managed as listed hazardous waste.  Later, USEPA determined that when listed hazardous wastes mixed with media and no longer contained listed hazardous waste, the resulting waste could exit RCRA and not be considered listed hazardous waste. This exiting of RCRA is a Contained-In-Determination (CID). EPA hasn’t created any default numerical standards CIDs.  The CID is referenced in the USEPA Document entitled “Management of Remediation Wastes Under RCRA,” EPA530-F-98-026.

Excavation and off-site disposal is a viable technique for removal of contaminated media. During RCRA’s early years and prior to LDR regulations, contaminated media that contained even minute levels (far less than today’s LDR levels) of listed hazardous waste was either (1) left in place or (2) if removed, was managed as listed hazardous waste. Today, there are situations where media containing listed hazardous wastes can exit RCRA hazardous waste regulation via the CID. Further, USEPA has granted some states authority to administer a program that allows media to exit RCRA through the CID. The RCRA exiting criteria is specific and requires regulatory written concurrence.  A generator cannot self-certify a CID. It cannot be documented and maintained without regulatory concurrence. Indiana for example has USEPA approval to certify CIDs and these area easily pre-determined by the generator via Indiana’s RISC program protocols and exit levels. In Indiana, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) approval requires:

  • (1) Contaminant levels below those indicated in a default value lookup table,
  • (2) Being characteristically non-hazardous,
  • (3) Meeting LDR requirements under certain situations, and
  • (4) Having IDEM regulatory concurrence.

Once a contained-in-determination is provided, the soil must be managed as a solid waste or be relocated onsite once it is “generated.” For media located in states that don’t have USEPA CID certification approval, generators would need to apply to USEPA for CIDs. USEPA CIDs are site specific. A waste which has minimal levels of listed contaminants (less than LDR or IDEM CID Levels) but does not have a written CID issued by USEPA or an authorized state will need to manage the media as listed hazardous waste. It is important to note that the CID requirements do not apply to characteristic wastes.

Exempt/Excluded Wastes

Exempt/Excluded wastes are wastes that if the exemption or exclusion did not exist, would meet the definition of hazardous waste. These wastes, however, are not required to be managed as solid wastes/RCRA hazardous wastes due to the regulatory exemption or exclusion. These wastes are important to understand for two reasons:

  • (1) The waste may be perceived to be hazardous, but in actuality is not, and
  • (2) The exemption or exclusion may be misunderstood, misread or misinterpreted.

The exclusion provided for petroleum contaminated media (40 CFR 261.4) is a good example. The exclusion indicates “(10) Petroleum contaminated media and debris that fail the test for the Toxicity Characteristic of 261.24 (Hazardous Waste Codes D018-D043) and are subject to the corrective action regulations under part 280 of this chapter.” According to the exclusion the following would be necessary:

  • (1) The waste would only exceed the TCLP regulatory thresholds for USEPA waste codes D018-D043. If the waste exhibited ignitability (D001) or exceed the TCLP regulatory threshold for lead (D008), the media may not be considered for the exclusion.
  • (2) If the petroleum contamination was the result of an above ground storage tank or tanker truck release (not subject to part 280), the media may not be considered for the exclusion.

It is important to understand the exemptions and exclusions to ensure proper contaminated media management during remediation projects.

LDR Application

LDR remains an item that routinely creates confusion during soil removal projects.  LDR basically establishes the level of contaminants that can be disposed in a land disposal facility. LDR has created confusion for both TCLP wastes and listed hazardous wastes. Each is discussed below.

TCLP waste generators understood that exceeding TCLP thresholds put them in the hazardous waste management program. What they didn’t understand is why much lower numbers were required to exit. For example, the TCLP regulatory threshlold for lead is 5.0 mg/L. Less than 5.0 mg/L remains non-hazardous. The LDR is 0.75 mg/L. The soil treatment standard is 10 times the Universal Treatment Standard (10 x 0.75 = 7.5) or a 90% reduction.  So if the waste never enters RCRA hazardous waste regulation at less than 5.0 mg/L, it may be disposed in a subtitle D land disposal site without treatment. But at or above 5.0 mg/L, it must be (1) treated to less than 7.5 mg/L by TCLP at a hazardous waste treatment facility. Additionally, any other Underlying Hazardous Constituents must be identified and treated prior to land disposal. For ignitable, reactive, or corrosive wastes, the underlying reason for the code must be removed.

For listed wastes, this concept becomes more daunting for some. A generator cannot merely indicate a listing without knowing the concentrations of the listed waste. Listed hazardous waste residual disposal in a subtitle C land disposal site requires that the media meet LDR. LDR for contaminated soil is 10 times the numerical values presented in 40 CFR 268 or 90% reduction in concentration. Soil containing constituents less than 10 times the LDR levels can be directly land disposed in a subtitle C facility without further treatment. Soil containing greater than 10 times LDR will require treatment prior to subtitle C land disposal. Obviously, it becomes important to understand the LDR associated with each chemical in the contaminated media for proper and efficient media disposal.

Understanding Complex Remediation Waste Issues – Part 1

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) has been in place for a number of years and it still creates many complex questions when relating to contaminated environmental media on remediation projects. Contaminated media can be generated through:

  • Excavation,
  • Investigations (with investigation derived wastes),
  • In-situ soil or groundwater treatment producing waste residuals, and
  • Other waste generating or construction activities.

Typical questions arise from complex issues relating to:

(1) Generator waste determinations for contaminated media,

(2) Unknown source wastes,

(3) Contained in listed wastes,

(4) Exempt/Excluded wastes, and

(5) Land Disposal Restriction (LDR) application.

*Sections 1 and 2 from above are discussed below and sections 3, 4, and 5 will be posted in next week’s blog.

Generator Contaminated Media Waste Determinations

First, be aware that the USEPA has indicated that environmental media contaminated with hazardous waste is itself not hazardous waste for waste determination purposes.  Only when the soil is exhumed, is it considered generated for the purposes of 40 CFR 261.

RCRA is a cradle to grave hazardous waste management system.  40 CFR 261 is RCRA’s heart because it establishes the thought process for determining if a solid waste is hazardous and if so it is subject to hazardous waste regulations. With this approach, generators (not their consultants, contractors, brokers or disposal facilities) are obligated to perform a waste characterization to determine if solid wastes are also hazardous waste.

This framework created mechanisms for solid waste to be considered hazardous wastes by their characteristics and by being listed alongside other inherently waste-like solid wastes. The language in 40 CFR 261 requires a generator to either:

(1) analyze the waste, or

(2) utilize generator knowledge to determine the applicable waste codes.

Why does this matter? USEPA has consistently indicated it is a generator’s responsibility to determine the generator status and all USEPA Hazardous Waste codes associated with the waste. Misapplication of codes can create issues with hazardous waste management, disposal (selecting a location permitted to accept the waste) and transportation.

USEPA regulations have long maintained that if testing is used, generators are required to analyze representative samples of the waste to determine if it is RCRA hazardous waste or not. Representative sampling requires that it be representative “of the whole” of the waste being managed. Industrial process waste generators have a reasonable opportunity to conduct sampling on waste streams that vary minimally in concentration, matrix, etc. Limited sampling can be done with in-plant generated wastes.  With soil remediation wastes, the waste concentrations vary at many points throughout a designated remediation area. For this reason, it becomes important to fully understand the remediation area and how the soil will be managed prior to analyzing samples per the Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP). Historically, some have thought that the existence of TCLP data from a single sample location mandates that all of the in place soil be managed according to that individual sample result. This may or may not be the case. A single in-place sample analyzed for TCLP characteristics does not necessarily mandate that the waste is managed as hazardous. TCLP information for in place soil is not completely consistent with the TCLP’s intent, because the soil in place (its designated use) is not yet a waste and therefore not yet a hazardous waste. TCLP requirements apply when a waste is generated. TCLP data for in place soil can be used to document the soil being hazardous waste, but is insufficient in determining Land Disposal Restriction (LDR) requirements as most LDR levels are either total concentrations or technology based. Knowledge regarding the likely TCLP levels and distribution (depth and radius from source) of contaminants throughout the media can be used to determine if site becomes a mass excavation, surgical excavation (based on waste code and LDR requirements) or if stockpiling is necessary to re-evaluate the waste following excavation or generation.

It is also important to understand the role that investigation data can play in media waste determination. Investigation data can often be biased from the fact that environmental investigation regulations or guidelines are typically looking for extent of any contamination, source area/hot-spots (elevated levels), and clean levels (to determine extent). Many times, if a source area is known, the investigation will be extremely limited within the source area. Additionally, sampling depths may completely ignore some intervals of decreasing or increasing concentrations. And lastly, those performing the investigation may be only analyzing for specific parameters that do not include parameters needed to document whether the waste is a characteristic hazardous waste (TCLP exceedance) or a listed hazardous waste.

Generator knowledge regarding contaminated media remediation projects is obviously difficult to document; especially if the generator is attempting to indicate that the waste meets certain LDR levels, indicate TCLP levels, or indicate other chemical data. Why do the actual concentrations matter? This information is critical in determining the disposal site selection and management techniques. An important factor in performing a waste determination using generator knowledge is that there may be more chemicals already existing in the environmental media than the generator has actual knowledge. For example, the removal of an underground storage tank and the associated diesel containing soil is regulated under 40 CFR 280 when soil removal is occurring. While the diesel impacted soil would be exempt from hazardous waste regulation, there could be mitigating factors such as a previous tank could have contained and released leaded fuels or a nearby dry cleaner could have previously contaminated the soil. In these situations, a “generator knowledge” based non-hazardous waste determination could be inaccurate.

Wastes from Unknown Sources

Many generators are confused when conducting waste determinations on waste where the source is unknown or undocumented. Determining a source is many times more difficult and typically requires more effort than obtaining TCLP sample results. An example would be a property owner conducting a contaminated soil removal at a dry cleaner site. The generator is required to make a waste determination and in so doing uncovers detectable levels of perchlorethylene in soil and groundwater. Perchloroethylene is a solvent stipulated in the USEPA listed waste codes F002 and U210 and it is also on the TCLP list as USEPA Waste Code D039. In “Management of Remediation Wastes Under RCRA”, USEPA indicated that a generator need not apply a hazardous waste listing if the source cannot be documented. The document has been perceived by many to be able to just say “I don’t know the source, so it’s not listed.”  This statement is inaccurate. The document still requires the generator make a good faith effort to determine the source and concentration of the chemicals identified in the contaminated media.  While industrial waste generators don’t generally have this issue with routine plant process wastes, it became a point of discussion in the contaminated media/remediation industry. The Proposed National Contingency Plan (NCP) preamble first indicated while the source is important information relevant to determining if wastes are listed, this information may not exist at CERCLA sites where USEPA was actively performing the clean-up. In an effort to maintain the clean-up progress and minimize potentially unnecessary costs, the determination could be limited to TCLP testing to determine only the characteristics (D codes). However, the document clearly references that a generator must make a good faith effort to determine the source of the waste.

It remains a compliance issue subject to enforcement. This becomes increasingly important as listed hazardous waste is typically more expensive to dispose than characteristic hazardous waste and disposal site selection can become more limited with listed wastes. While a generator is narrowly focused on his/her waste determination, keep in mind that a hazardous waste disposal site operates per its hazardous waste permit. As such, the disposal site may not agree with the generators waste determination and not accept the waste media for disposal. Waste misrepresentation has resulted in many landfills needing to remove improperly characterized and disposed hazardous waste. If a generator intends to utilize the unknown source claim to avoid applying listings (F, K, P, U Codes), the generator should have sufficient investigation information into facility history, chemical purchases, waste disposal, materials used, etc. to document the good faith effort.