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Environmental Health and Safety Blog | EHSWire

Best Available Technology for Community Air Monitoring at Hazardous Waste Clean-up Sites

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Jul 12, 2010 7:57:55 AM

The remediation of contaminated soil at hazardous waste sites is one way that we, as a society, employ to improve our environment.  However, there is a risk of releasing these hazardous substances into the air during the actual soil-remediating operations that could present health risks to the surrounding community.  One method of controlling these risks is through community air monitoring programs or CAMP.

Once only included on projects with very high levels of risk and public scrutiny, community air monitoring has become more commonplace.  Several key factors are driving the utilization of these programs:

  • Public interest is intensifying, especially for projects in proximity to residences and workplaces.

  • Technical knowledge and awareness of environmental hazards are expanding.

  • Regulatory interest in this topic is steadily increasing.

For the owners or responsible parties of hazardous waste sites, there is a clear expectation from the public and regulators that community health issues will be addressed as part of remediation projects. Like many technology-based products, environmental measurement technology and responsiveness is improving rapidly. It only makes sense that air monitoring programs should evolve using Best Developed Available Technology (BDAT)  and be more sophisticated and more effective (yet easier to use) to meet this growing demand.  From Wikipedia:

“Best available technology (or just BAT) is a term applied with regulations on limiting pollutant discharges with regard to the abatement strategy. … The term constitutes a moving target on practices, since developing societal values and advancing techniques may change what is currently regarded as "reasonably achievable", "best practicable" and "best available".

Using BAT to Improve AQ

With this changing backdrop, leaps in technology and communication, and Emilcott’s two-plus decades of health and safety field work at hazardous waste sites, it was clear that air monitoring systems used for CAMP were not keeping up with technologies or project demands.  As a result, Emilcott responded by developing the Greenlight™ Environmental Monitoring System - a technology-based and responsive approach for community air monitoring. This system and other new-generation air monitoring packages take advantage of automation and wireless technologies along with BAT detectors to allow site owners and their project contractors to deal successfully with air quality issues at their jobsite.

 Air Monitoring Program Objectives

Based on Emilcott’s EHS experience, there are three broad objectives for an air monitoring program:

  • Manage risk effectively, considering legal, regulatory and public relations aspects.

  • Protect the community and the workforce from any potential exposure to substances of concern.

  • Keep the air quality issues related to a remediation project on-time and on-budget.

 Good Project Planning Leads to Good Project Results

How do you know when the air monitoring component of hazardous waste remediation project has been planned with care? It uses these basic CAMP Project Planning guidelines -- a consideration for regulations, community concerns, contractor budgets and timelines, and desired results -- as the basis to select the optimal air monitoring system:

  1. Engage community stakeholders early; make them aware of the measurement processes to be undertaken, and establish a regular protocol for sharing sampling and measurement (real time and aggregate) data gathered throughout the project.   

  2. Engage the regulators upfront to best ensure a complete and mutually-satisfactory air monitoring plan for the project.

  3. Analyze and understand the total cost of air monitoring throughout the life of the project: equipment, startup/deployment, staffing, reporting, reliability/backup, and data integration and analysis. 

  4. Specify a system that truly fits the project’s needs:  Flexible? Scalable? Portable? Customizable? Plug and Play? Responsive?

Best Available Technologies for Air Monitoring

There are thousands of clean-up operations taking place throughout the US – most still employing outdated systems that are not as effective in reducing risks as today’s technology allows, and, in many cases, are more costly due to the high need of human labor. How do you know if your air monitoring system is BAT? Does it

  • Include user-configured alarms in real-time so that anomalies can be detected early?

  • Include a robust database architecture to house all acquired data?

  • Include easy data-export capabilities so that report-writing and site analysis are easily accomplished saving time and resolving questions?

  • Transmit field measurement data in real-time to decision-makers so that engineering controls can be implemented as needed?

  • Identify and distinguish off-site and/or background emission sources to determine if the measured pollutants are related to the site work?

  • Include a variety detection equipment options that suit project needs?

  • Eliminate or reduce the need for hand-held devices and

  • Include multiple power options?

Given the availability today, right now, of newer technologies and systems that can easily help reduce the risks from air-borne hazards, shouldn’t these be used on remediation sites to protect workers and the public?  Do you work on one of these sites, or maybe live near one? If these systems and BAT products can provide higher levels of protection, shouldn’t they be specified into the project?

Topics: OSHA, indoor air quality, Personal Protective Equipment, health and safety, Construction H&S, EPA, Hazardous Waste Management, Hazardous Materials, Compliance, worker safety, Occupational Health, Occupational Safety, Air Sampling, environmental air monitoring, Respiratory, Public Safety

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