Academic journal article Journal of Environmental Health

New Systems Tool for Groundwater Cleanup

Academic journal article Journal of Environmental Health

New Systems Tool for Groundwater Cleanup

Article excerpt

After almost 50 years of nuclear-materials production, the 586-square-mile Hanford facility in southeastern Washington comprises more than 700 waste sites with the potential to release contaminants to the soil and groundwater. These sites vary significantly in their inventories of radioactive and chemical contaminants, as well as in the potential for contaminants to migrate through the soil to the groundwater and the Columbia River. As decision makers investigate cleanup and closure options for Hanford, it is important for them to understand which waste sites have the most significant impact and what the cumulative effects of all the waste sites are.

Researchers at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) have developed a comprehensive new tool that will provide federal and state regulators with some of the critical information they need to help protect people, the environment, and the Columbia River.

The System Assessment Capability, or SAC, is an integrated system of computer models and databases that predicts the movement and fate of contaminants in the vadose zone (the soil above groundwater), the groundwater, and the Columbia River. SAC also assesses the impact of contaminants on human health, animals, and the environment.

Instead of showing each waste site in isolation, as has been done in the past, SAC shows the sites in context and in relationship to each other. …

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