Expert Q&A: Murray Einarson on characterization of soil, groundwater, surface water, sediment & air

Expert Q&A:  Murray Einarson on characterization of soil, groundwater, surface water, sediment & air

Murray Einarson is a Principal Hydrogeologist with Haley & Aldrich, and works from our Oakland, CA, office. He has been an environmental consultant for over 30 years.

Explain Haley & Aldrich’s role in characterizing contaminated sites.

We get involved when there's documented or alleged contamination at a site, whether it’s soil or sediment, surface water, groundwater or airborne. Our job is to get to the facts, to accurately identify the nature and magnitude of the problem – or often, problems. In many cases, samples have already been collected but the results misinterpreted or taken out of context. We typically compile all existing data into a comprehensive site conceptual model. This leads to an accurate assessment of possible risks to receptors, streamlined cleanup programs, and – oftentimes – regulatory closure.

So you’re primarily a testing service?

It's actually more common for Haley & Aldrich to be brought in to review findings delivered to a client after an initial round of testing has been completed. After assessing the existing data, we might start doing our own sampling, and sometimes discover that the subsurface conditions are actually quite different from what the initial testing concluded. Maybe they were working from faulty assumptions, and we can clear that up.

You’d think that everyone would get the same test results. Science is science, right?

Well, you have to remember that the subsurface environment is complex, and technologies for characterizing subsurface geology, groundwater and contamination are evolving rapidly. Just within the last couple of years, for example, my team has developed a new laser-induced fluorescence technology to quickly map the location of residual chlorinated solvent dense non-aqueous phase liquids (DNAPLs) in the subsurface. This method, called DYE-LIF™, injects a hydrophobic fluorescent dye that dissolves into the DNAPL (if present) and reveals them in real time and space.

Isn’t the Environmental Protection Agency the definitive resource on remediation methods?

In the 70s and 80s, the EPA was the lead environmental regulatory agency in the world, and their guidance documents on site characterization and remediation methods were the gold standard. But the EPA hasn’t always been prompt in updating their guidance documents as new approaches and technologies for site assessment and cleanup have been developed. So that’s also part of what we do, working with regulators to advance their level of understanding as the science advances. We’ve actually helped update their guidance documents on a number of topics.

For more information on Characterization of Soil, Groundwater, Surface Water, Sediment & Air, contact Murray Einarson.