Outdoor activities that boost economy can influence restoration

Read the full story at Great Lakes Echo.

Ecosystem assets in the Great Lakes region, such as sport fishing, boating, beach use, park visits and birding, contribute significantly to the tourism economy of shoreline communities and can help shape restoration priorities for the lakes, according to a new study that incorporates highly detailed maps.

Superfund: Trends in Federal Funding and Cleanup of EPA’s Nonfederal National Priorities List Sites

Download the document.

What GAO Found

Annual federal appropriations to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Superfund program generally declined from about $2 billion to about $1.1 billion in constant 2013 dollars from fiscal years 1999 through 2013. EPA expenditures—from these federal appropriations—of site-specific cleanup funds on remedial cleanup activities at nonfederal National Priorities List (NPL) sites declined from about $0.7 billion to about $0.4 billion during the same time period. Remedial cleanup activities include remedial investigations, feasibility studies, and remedial action projects (actions taken to clean up a site). EPA spent the largest amount of cleanup funds in Region 2, which accounted for about 32 percent of cleanup funds spent at nonfederal NPL sites during this 15-year period. The majority of cleanup funds was spent in seven states, with the most funds spent in New Jersey—over $2.0 billion in constant 2013 dollars, or more than 25 percent of cleanup funds.

From fiscal years 1999 through 2013, the total number of nonfederal sites on the NPL annually remained relatively constant, while the number of remedial action project completions and construction completions generally declined. Remedial action project completions generally occur when the physical work is finished and the cleanup objectives of the remedial action project are achieved. Construction completion occurs when all physical construction at a site is complete, all immediate threats have been addressed, and all long-term threats are under control. Multiple remedial action projects may need to be completed before a site reaches construction completion. The total number of nonfederal sites on the NPL increased from 1,054 in fiscal year 1999 to 1,158 in fiscal year 2013, and averaged about 1,100 annually. The number of remedial action project completions at nonfederal NPL sites generally declined by about 37 percent during the 15-year period. Similarly, the number of construction completions at nonfederal NPL sites generally declined by about 84 percent during the same period. The figure below shows the number of completions during this period.

Why GAO Did This Study

Under the Superfund program, EPA places some of the most seriously contaminated sites on the NPL. At the end of fiscal year 2013, nonfederal sites made up about 90 percent of these sites. At these sites, EPA undertakes remedial action projects to permanently and significantly reduce contamination. Remedial action projects can take a considerable amount of time and money, depending on the nature of the contamination and other site-specific factors. In GAO’s 2010 report on cleanup at nonfederal NPL sites, GAO found that EPA’s Superfund program appropriations were generally declining, and limited funding had delayed remedial cleanup activities at some of these sites.

GAO was asked to review the status of the cleanup of nonfederal NPL sites. This report examines, for fiscal years 1999 through 2013, the trends in (1) the annual federal appropriations to the Superfund program and EPA expenditures for remedial cleanup activities at nonfederal sites on the NPL; and (2) the number of nonfederal sites on the NPL, the number of remedial action project completions, and the number of construction completions at nonfederal NPL sites. GAO analyzed Superfund program and expenditure data from fiscal years 1999 through 2013 (most recent year with complete data available), reviewed EPA documents, and interviewed EPA officials.

Webinar: Assessment and Treatment of Contaminated Sediments

Thursday, October 29, 2015, 12:00 PM ET (9:00 AM PT)
Register at https://serdp-estcp.org/Tools-and-Training/Webinar-Series/10-29-2015

Webinar Topics 

The Roles of Biology, Chemistry and Exposure in the Development of Resilient Remedies by Dr. Todd Bridges

Remediation of contaminated sediments is a widespread, complex, and expensive national problem. Uncertainties regarding contaminant exposure processes play a significant role in driving cleanup decisions, including the derivation of cleanup levels and the selection of remedial approaches. This research has focused on reducing these uncertainties by resolving the role of functional ecology (e.g., the animal behavior) in exposure. Laboratory research has combined the use of passive sampling, tissue analysis, and modeling to quantify the exposure processes that should enable more complete and accurate risk assessments and the design of more resilient remedies. Differences in exposure will be quantified among distinct animal groups (e.g., amphipods, polychaetes, bivalves, fish) in order to improve exposure models used in risk assessment, remedial design, and performance monitoring. In addition, this study is evaluating the relative performance of thin-layer sand caps and activated carbon amendments as a means of achieving resilience for in situ remedies challenged by ongoing sources of contamination. The results of this research will provide tools to evaluate, monitor, and guide active management of in situ remedies.

In Situ Treatment of Polychlorinated Biphenyl Impacted Sediments by Microbial Bioaugmentation by Dr. Kevin Sowers

The objective of this research is to develop and test the efficacy of a bioamended form of granulated activated carbon (GAC) to sequester PCBs from the food chain and concurrently dechlorinate and degrade PCBs in sediments at Department of Defense (DoD) sites. The innovative aspect of the technology is the application of anaerobic organohalide respiring and aerobic PCB degrading bacteria with selected activities to sediments with a GAC agglomerate (SediMiteTM) as a delivery system. The project goals are to (1) evaluate the efficacy of bioaugmentation for expediting degradation of highly chlorinated Aroclors in situ and (2) evaluate the efficacy of the delivery system for deploying biocatalysts into PCB-impacted sediments through a water column. In situ treatment by bioaugmentation has the potential to significantly reduce the environmental impact compared with dredging by minimizing the health risks associated with sediment disruption, reducing overall energy use and effectively negating the requirement for extensive waste management and habitat restoration. The results of an ESTCP-funded pilot study to demonstrate and validate this environmentally sustainable technology under simulated field conditions and at a PCB-impacted DoD field site will be the focus of this presentation.

Adding More Plastic to Our Oceans Could Clean Them Up

Read the full story in Wired.

Chemist Abby Knight has created plastic microbeads that grab onto toxic metal in contaminated groundwater. She douses the balls in a dye to see how much metal they’ve absorbed.

For U.S. Tribes, a Movement to Revive Native Foods and Lands

Read the full story in Yale Environment360.

On ancestral lands, the Fond du Lac band in Minnesota is planting wild rice and restoring wetlands damaged by dams, industry, and logging. Their efforts are part of a growing trend by Native Americans to bring back traditional food sources and heal scarred landscapes.

Massive cleanup plan emerging for U.S. Steel site in Duluth

Read the full story in the Duluth News Tribune.

After years of neglect, the site of the long-closed U.S. Steel Duluth Works may be be on the verge of revitalization.

Following decades of steel and cement production, the industrial property along the St. Louis River in western Duluth has the unfortunate distinction of being the most widely contaminated site to be identified in all the Great Lakes Rust Belt, according to Erin Endsley of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

New study shows how nanoparticles can clean up environmental pollutants

Read the full story from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Many human-made pollutants in the environment resist degradation through natural processes, and disrupt hormonal and other systems in mammals and other animals. Removing these toxic materials — which include pesticides and endocrine disruptors such as bisphenol A (BPA) — with existing methods is often expensive and time-consuming.

In a new paper published this week in Nature Communications, researchers from MIT and the Federal University of Goiás in Brazil demonstrate a novel method for using nanoparticles and ultraviolet (UV) light to quickly isolate and extract a variety of contaminants from soil and water.