February 24, 2022

Adaptive Site Management Strategies for the Hanford Central Plateau Groundwater


Adaptive site management (ASM) is a systematic and iterative management approach that can be used to expedite the remediation of large and/or complex sites. ASM is defined as a formal and systematic project or site management approach centered on rigorous site planning and a firm understanding of site conditions and uncertainties, using science and technology to routinely re-evaluate and prioritize site remedial actions and characterization activities. The goal of the approach is to create a framework of structured and continuous planning, implementation, and assessment processes that accommodates new information and changing site conditions to develop effective and efficient cleanup approaches that achieves the required outcome(s) while optimizing costs, cleanup timeframe, and performance. Central to ASM is an evolving conceptual site model (CSM). Over time, incremental reductions in uncertainty associated with the CSM will occur, while supporting continued progress toward site cleanup and closure through remedy optimization and evaluation. ASM has the potential to expedite cleanup for the Central Plateau area at Hanford through a planned and systematic approach for reducing uncertainty with targeted characterization activities, while continuing remediation activities that advance cleanup for key risk-driving contaminants. A core component of cleanup within the Central Plateau is the 200 West Pump-and-Treat (P&T) system. Even with an active P&T remedy, uncertainty exists with respect to plume distributions, total mass in the aquifer, and currently known continuing sources. Additional uncertainty is associated with multiple contaminant source locations in the vadose zone, which have the potential to create new groundwater plumes in the absence of any source control measures, although not all contaminant fluxes to groundwater will result in contaminant concentrations above cleanup levels. Collectively, these uncertainties need to be addressed in the CSM to support effective and efficient site progress toward cleanup goal(s). Other nontechnical factors that may warrant an ASM approach at the Hanford Central Plateau are associated with the formation of operable units (OUs) used to manage cleanup. With the exception of the 200-ZP-1 OU, the three remaining groundwater OUs only have interim action records of decision. Nine vadose zone source area OUs are also in the early stages of the remedial investigation and feasibility study process, with pending characterization and technology identification activities. A set of proposed site objectives for the Central Plateau are provided in this document as an initial consideration/example and basis for discussion for ASM implementation. These example site objectives were selected with the goal of maintaining protectiveness at the Columbia River through confinement of contaminant plumes within an administratively controlled area below existing surface waste sites and waste disposal facilities. Although site decision makers and regulators need to provide concurrence, these site objectives are used in this document to describe the elements of an ASM approach, including selection of interim objectives and a long-term adaptive management plan. Interim objectives are also defined to yield measurable incremental progress toward the overall site goals. This document identifies initial technical considerations for developing an ASM framework for the Central Plateau cleanup decisions. These considerations are intended to facilitate more specific decisions, such as objectives, near- and long-term actions, and performance metrics, to develop an overall approach that maintains protectiveness but recognizes the uncertainty, long timeframe, and technical challenges that need to be considered in selecting, implementing, and managing remediation at the Hanford Central Plateau.

Published: February 24, 2022


Demirkanli D.I., and V.L. Freedman. 2021. Adaptive Site Management Strategies for the Hanford Central Plateau Groundwater Richland, WA: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

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