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Green Municipal Fund

Sustainable Site Assessments

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You can use various techniques to find out whether a suspected brownfield site contains contaminated soil or groundwater. These techniques usually require drilling groundwater wells and extracting soil samples throughout the site, then sending them for laboratory analysis. Using sustainable techniques, especially for large sites, can reduce the energy use, waste generation and emissions associated with drilling, sampling and transportation.

Suggested sustainable approaches to site assessments and associated benefits

Assessment planning

Sustainable approaches Benefits
Find opportunities to combine sampling, analysis and remediation of material in one step Reduces air emissions Minimizes waste Conserves energy or fuel
Thoroughly review historical data and previous site investigations to avoid duplicating efforts. Reduces air emissions Minimizes waste Conserves energy or fuel

Well drilling

Sustainable approaches Benefits
Where feasible, use remote sensing to minimize drilling and sampling (see remote sensing) Minimizes waste Conserves energy or fuel
Hire local drillers to minimize long-distance transport. Reduces air emissions Conserves energy or fuel
Use methods that minimize waste and generate less dust (see direct-push well drilling). Reduces air emissions Minimizes waste
Recycle waste materials from drilling processes. Minimizes waste
Use biofuels or low-emission fuels to power vehicles and drill equipment. Reduces air emissions
Minimize vehicle and equipment idling. Reduces air emissions Conserves energy or fuel

Soil and groundwater sampling

Sustainable approaches Benefits
Use renewable energy (solar, wind) to power sampling equipment (see renewable energy). Reduces air emissions Conserves energy or fuel

Hire local contractors for sampling.

Reduces air emissions Conserves energy or fuel

Sample analysis

Sustainable approaches Benefits
Use portable, on-site analytical devices (see portable analytical instruments). Reduces air emissions Conserves energy or fuel
Use local laboratories if portable, on-site analytical devices are not viable. Reduces air emissions Conserves energy or fuel
Transmit data remotely from on-site instruments to office sites (see remote data collection). Reduces air emissions Conserves energy or fuel

Examples of sustainable assessment techniques

Remote sensing refers to non-intrusive techniques that can be used at some sites to determine the site geology and, in some cases, contaminated areas, without extracting samples. Geophysical techniques such as ground-penetrating radar can be used to detect general site features and can help to reduce the amount of drilling and sampling required. However, the feasibility of using remote sensing techniques depends on the characteristics of the site.

U.S. Geological Survey Direct-push well drilling can save time and costs compared to conventional rotary drilling techniques. This technique does not require the drilling fluids used in conventional techniques and does not generate waste drill cuttings that often need to be disposed of off-site. Direct-push drilling also allows for soil and groundwater samples to be collected as the well is drilled, reducing additional time and costs associated with conventional sampling.

Renewable energy can be used to power on-site sampling and analytical equipment. Wind and solar systems can be used with a battery backup to operate meteorological stations, air emission sensors, and mobile laboratory equipment.



Oak Ridge National LaboratoryPortable analytical instruments are readily available to easily and quickly analyze samples in the field. These instruments vary from hand-held equipment to more rigorous systems that may require a mobile laboratory to provide a more controlled environment to analyze samples. These instruments eliminate the time and cost of shipping samples to an off-site laboratory. Two of the most common portable analytical instruments are portable gas chromatography/mass spectrometry for organic compounds and x-ray fluorescence for metals.

Remote data collection allows for data to be monitored automatically and transmitted to a project office through solar-powered telemetry systems. These on-site analytical instruments can be used for site investigations as well as site monitoring once remediation begins.

Want to know more?

Consult the site assessment and investigation sections of these reports:

Page Updated: 02/11/2013