Jim Depa, Sr. Project Manager, Jacob and Hefner Associates

IPEConnect PRESENTATION DATE: September 19, 2024

High-Resolution Site Characterization (HRSC) tools and 3-D Visualization and Animation (3-DVA) technology are being utilized more often to reduce the costs of environmental liabilities caused by chemical spills and releases. The tools provide detailed information about the subsurface geologic setting of a site as well as the magnitude and distribution of chemical contaminants in the subsurface, while 3-DVA technology provides a way to present the massive amount of data generated by the tools.
The HRSC tools used most often in the environmental consulting industry are:
– Laser-Induced Fluorescence (LIF) tools detect the presence of free-phase Non-Aqueous Phase Liquids (NAPL) in the subsurface, such as crude oil, diesel fuel, or gasoline;
– A Membrane Interface Probe (MIP) detects both residual contamination on soil and dissolved contamination in groundwater from Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs);
– Hydraulic Profiling Tools (HPT) estimate the permeability and hydraulic conductivity of the subsurface soils in high-resolution.
The data generated by these tools is critical in the subsurface characterization of a site since contaminant impacts can be more quickly delineated and quantified as compared to traditional soil boring and sampling methods. The data can also help identify how contaminant impacts relate to the geologic setting of a site, revealing lower permeable soils acting as storage units for contaminants and highly permeable units acting as subsurface migration pathways. This information is essential when selecting and designing a remedial technology.
While advanced into the subsurface, HRSC tools collect data at a very high resolution, about a data point every few centimeters. Therefore, one boring to ten meters in depth can typically generate over 1,000 data points, and a single day of HRSC drilling can routinely generate over 10,000 data points. 3-DVA technology is perfectly suited to handle the massive amount of data produced by HRSC tools because it quickly allows for the viewing of the raw outputs in three dimensions. Additionally, interpolation tools can estimate concentrations in between sample collection points using statistical kriging. The tools can be used during any stage of an environmental investigation to reduce costs by:
• Aiding in emergency spill response by modifying investigative plans in real-time;
• Providing a detailed second look at legacy sites that are not meeting the remedial goals by identifying source areas in soil, recalcitrant zones of contamination, or the centerline of a plume in groundwater;
• Improving remediation plans by estimating the volume of impacted soil at any concentration level, calculating the mass of the in-situ contaminants, or constructing a detailed injection plan to optimize the delivery of the amendments, or
• Supporting environmental litigation by providing visualizations that can be understood by both stakeholders and members of the non-scientific community.
One of the major hurdles of delivering 3D visualizations to clients has always been access and installation of the software required to view the finished product. This was either impossible (due to lack of administrative rights) or burdensome because of the technical knowledge required to install and operate the software. Alternatively, the models could be delivered in other formats, such as a 3D PDF or as sets of still images, however, in these formats, the visual fidelity of the models left much to be desired, or (in the case of still images) the three dimensionally of the model was lost.
Recent innovations have allowed end clients to be able to access and manipulate the 3D visualizations using an interactive web-based viewer without the need to install any additional software. Access to the visualizations only require internet connectivity and both the visual fidelity and functionality of the models has been improved. End users can easily turn on or off any dataset in the model, make features transparent, or capture still images for reporting purposes. These advancements have made 3D visualization technology both accessible and affordable for projects of nearly any size.