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A Framework for Assessing the Sustainability of Monitored Natural Attenuation

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Research paper

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Natural attenuation, a series of naturally occurring processes that transform potentially dangerous environmental contaminants into innocuous byproducts, occurs to some degree in all hydrologic systems. The efficiency of natural attenuation, however, varies widely for different hydrologic environments and contaminants. Monitored Natural Attenuation MNA is the regulatory term for the use of these naturally occurring processes to help manage human-generated wastes. Good environmental stewardship requires, however, that MNA be applied in a technically sound manner that reliably protects humans and wildlife from chemical contaminants. Several years ago, the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program SERDP, initiated research designed to improve the scientific basis for evaluating MNA. Because MNA is often considered as a part of remediation systems that need to operate for decades or centuries, methods for understanding the long-term sustainability of MNA were of particular priority. SERDP, in partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, initiated a project to assess the long-term sustainability of MNA. This report summarizes some of the findings of that study. The results of this joint study highlight opportunities and potential dangers associated with applying MNA to contaminants such as chlorinated solvents. This report outlines methodology for assessing the efficiency and sustainability of MNA. As such, it provides environmental managers a sound scientific basis for identifying sites where MNA is sustainable and an appropriate part of overall site remediation. Just as importantly, it also helps identify those sites where MNA may not be sustainable and not appropriate for site remediation.

Subject Categories:

  • Hydrology, Limnology and Potamology
  • Water Pollution and Control

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