(MATERIALS TO BE
BOYD BURTON, BIOTROL, INC.
AND RICHARD GOODYEAR, BFI, INC.)
WATER MANAGEMENT SEMINAR
January 9-16, 1993
Presentation by M. Boyd Burton
Eden Prairie, Minnesota
Thursday, January 14
Subject: NEW DIRECTIONS AND TRENDS IN ENVIRONMENTAL TECHNOLOGY
The genesis of the world's environmental problems has been properly characterized
as a by-product of the industrial revolution that began a couple of centuries ago. Since that
time, our standard of living has grown dramatically, but, unrecognized by most of us until
the past couple of decades, environmental contamination was also growing dramatically.
Definition of the Problem
The contamination has taken a wide variety of forms. Humanity routinely generates
substantial quantities of solid waste, such as garbage, sewage and many other forms of
traditional wastes. For more than a century, a wider variety of products and by-products
from the chemical, fuels, energy, metals and other similar materials has also been added to
the environment. It is these chemicals that provided most of the material resources that has
enriched our way of life. This discussion will focus on these chemical wastes.
The choice is not meant to imply that there is less concern for all the other wastes -
quite the contrary, they are of considerable concern, but management of air, water and soils
to preserve and improve the environment is sufficiently complex for this discussion.
The chemical contaminants dwell in all media air, water from all sources, soil,
sludges and even from remediation projects. The contaminants have been introduced into
the environment from two sources: (1)by industry and commerce producing, manufacturing,
consuming and disposing of the chemicals in the many forms required to provide the
products and services needed or demanded by society, and (2) from the public use,
disposition and misuse of the products from those industries. Over the past few decades,
the public has become increasingly aware and concerned about the fate and effect of the
many chemicals distributed through out the environment. Initially driven by public concern,
the environmental movement began in the 1960's.
Seeking Solutions The Driving Forces
Over the past couple of decades, public concern has been steadfast. Through
fluctuations in the economy, changes in political administrations, wavering world conditions
and many other variations in conditions effecting or potentially effecting the private citizen,
public concern has been essentially a constant. While performance of the agencies charged
with responsibility to manage environmental policy has been erratic, frustratingly slow and
more expensive than necessary, public support of the cleanup of the environment has been
In response to the public, the Congress and legislatures in all states have responded
with an enormous catalog of legislation aimed at managing the environment. A quick count
of Federal legislation shows about three dozen major bills since passage in 1948 of FIFRA,
the Federal Insecticides, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, the first major environmental
legislation since World War I. From this catalog of legislation, the responsible agencies
have created a staggering array of regulations, another major driving force for environmental
management. The state legislators have made proportionate addition to the catalog of
legislation and regulations. An immense bureaucracy has been created at the Federal, state
and local levels to manage and monitor these programs. The bureaucracy is both a driving
force and a repressor.
Noting the public attitude and the legislative response, generators of the contaminants
have developed new sensitivities to the public relations value of establishing and maintaining
( responsible environmental policies, another important driving force. An occasional
enforcement action leading to prison sentences for business executives undoubtedly
encourages such changes.
The free enterprise system is also a driving force of growing importance. With
governmental commitment to such a monumental program and industry acquiescence to the
need, potential business opportunities have been stirring interest among companies.
Environmental management has become a major industry and an excellent diversification
opportunity for companies in related fields, among companies with major remediation
liability and, of course, among entrepreneurs.
The environmental service industry is growing. According to the EPA, environmental
expenditures were estimated to be about 2% of the Gross National Product in 1991 or about
$185 billion. They predict growth to about 3% of the GNP by the year 2000. This estimate
is based on existing legislation. If the new administration fulfills their campaign promises,
the number could be even greater. Free enterprise, bolstered by industrial and
governmental grants, is also stimulating R&D programs leading to the new innovative
environmental treatment technologies.
When Superfund was first authorized in 1980 and even when it was renewed in 1985,
one of the major concerns of the Congress was the paucity of technologies to do the job.
They sensed that new, innovative technologies would be required to mount a multi-billion
program needed to clean the environment cost-effectively. Over the past few years, that
conclusion has certainly been supported. As a result of the concern, the legislation included
provisions to encourage new technology development.
Since the EPA issues annual reports on new technology development programs based
on Superfund projects, a historical perspective is available. The April 1992 "Innovative
Treatment Technologies: Semi-Annual Status Report" by the Office of Solid Waste and
Emergency Response (OSWER) of the EPA is a source.
Figure 1 lists "Established Treatment Technologies" and the "Innovative Treatment
Technologies" as they are defined for the OSWER report. This chart records the number
of technologies, both "Established" and "Innovative", that were included in the Records of
Decision (ROD) in each of the years since Superfund was launched. Incidently, since this
report originates from the solid waste group, the emphasis in this report is on solids
remediation, principally soil, with occasional reference to groundwater. As a point of
interest, it is reported that about 68% of all Superfund sites also have a groundwater
Figure 2 provides a measure of the increasing use of the "Innovative Treatment
Technologies". Most of these technologies have been available for some time, but the rate
of progress, particularly on Superfund projects, has been frustratingly slow. This point is
graphically illustrated in Figure 3 showing the status of remedial actions through February
1992. Of the 210 ROD's issued over the past decade that are employing some type of on-
site technology, only eight of them using "Innovative Technology" have been completed.
Incidently, it is worth noting through September 30, 1991, the National Priority List (the
source of Superfund projects) contained 1,236 sites. ROD's had been issued for 947 of the
sites of which 498 are included in Figure 2.
Giving credit where credit is due, the EPA performance is improving. They report
that through October last year, they exceeded their goal in completed cleanup 149
Superfund site completions, 19 more than the 1992 goal. A "site completion" is defined as
a site at which the remedy has been implemented regardless of progress toward meeting the
cleanup goals. During 1992 fiscal year, PRPs committed to spend more than $1.4 billionfor
site cleanup. The 1993 goal is 200 site completions and, obviously, considerable more in
Development goes on, particularly for the other two media air and water. Soil is
the more difficult and expensive to treat and, while new technology is being developed, the
R&D difficulties cause the pace to be slow. As a result, air and water decontamination
attracts more R&D attention. Water treatment has a long history in both public and
industrial applications. Since water treatment is more easily isolated and measured than soil
or air, R&D programs are more easily conceptualized and managed. As a result, new
technologies or significant improvements in existing technologies to treat water are emerging
The constraint in such R&D programs continues to be the difficulty of convincing the
project managers in the agencies to use the new technologies. The system works against the
innovator. An excellent illustration was reported from the Western Governors' Association
last year. The Association created a Waste Task Force to examine the treatment aspect of
environmental remediation projects. As reported by their Task Force, the comparison
between the R&D and the reality of the projects did not add up. They found much
development work underway in laboratories and in field demonstrations of innovative
technologies. On real-life field projects, however, they observed coveralls and backhoes.
Cleanup is hampered by a system that relies on traditional technologies selected by risk-
averse, status quo-minded project managers.
From these findings, the Western Governors' Association was instrumental last
October in an agreement between the EPA, DOE and DOD to provide funding for
demonstrations of new technologies. Recognizing that the final authority in many of the
cleanup were the insurance and financial industry, they involved such companies in their
Under the direction of the American Academy of Environmental Engineers, they are
also sponsoring a set of seven consensus-based monographs to include performance, cost,
design and operation of every known remediation technology. These volumes are expected
to issue later this year and should provide excellent guidance to those needing treatment
The Epa also has its own programs to take the message to the field. Active data
bases are available now:
The Alternative Treatment Technology Information Center (ATTIC) contains data
from more than 2,400 references needed by PRPs to make sound cleanup decisions. ATTIC
receives more than 1,000 inquiries per month, according to the EPA.
The Vendor Information Treatment Technologies (VISITT) contains vendor-
submitted performance and cost information on 155 innovative treatment technologies and
is available from the EPA/Technology Innovation Office (TIO) on a diskette.
-. -r .1. -
Tech Trends is a quarterly newsletter from TIO that highlights the latest
technologies. It is currently distributed to about 8,000 readers.
TIO also expects to release a Market Report on Teatment Technologies for
Remediation of Hazardous Waste Sites in the U.S. to help vendors identify the demand for
The pace of development of new technologies is quite high, but there continues to
be a need to convince the project managers. The stake is huge. The EPA has estimated
that the average cost of remediating a Superfund site will be about $26 million. They have
also estimated that there are about 31,000 potential Superfund sites. Quick arithmetic
places a potential price tag of $800 billion on the program. This reminds one of the late
Senator Everett Dirkson's most memorable remark "a billion here and a billion there soon
adds up." It certainly adds up for our nation's environmental task. Not only is the
development of cost-effective technology urgently needed, the project management system
must develop the mechanisms to assure that the emerging technologies have the opportunity
to be proven and, most importantly, that the new technologis are used.