Expert Q&A: Richard Farson on system design

Expert Q&A:  Richard Farson on system design

Richard Farson joined Haley & Aldrich in 2001 and is a Vice President and Chief Engineer. He brings more than 25 years’ experience in remediation systems design and engineering.

What is environmental remediation system design all about?

There are really two basic approaches: in situ treatment of contaminated soil and/or groundwater, which uses either a chemical or biologic process; or extraction and treatment. The second approach includes a wider range of available treatment options – from filtration, to oxidization, neutralization, stabilization, or thermal destruction of the hazardous compounds. The design of the system identifies and selects the appropriate equipment and represents the project with plans and specifications that are used for pricing and construction.

Are new treatment options available or are these the same tools we’ve had for 30 years?

New treatments are constantly being developed. For example, 1,4-dioxane is a solvent stabilizer widely used by aerospace manufacturers and was always resistant to economical removal from groundwater. Just a few years ago, Haley & Aldrich worked with a leading chemical and materials manufacturer to develop a new treatment medium that successfully removes 1,4-dioxane without the need for additional expensive processes.

Isn’t there also a lot of progress in biologic treatments?

The remarkable progress that’s been made in medical DNA sequencing has provided huge benefits to us as well. We’re now able to recognize the genetic fingerprints of a very large number of biota which can be used to create custom remediation treatments.

Describe some of the biologic treatments available.

There are certain microbes and fungi that literally eat dangerous compounds and render them harmless. For example, there is a microbe called dehalococcoides that actually removes the chlorine radical from tetrachlorethyene, leaving harmless ethene in its place. The gasoline additive MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether) is a human carcinogen that was always difficult to remove once dissolved in water. The microbe methylibium petroleiphilum, or PM-1, eats it for breakfast.

What is unique about Haley & Aldrich’s approach to remediation design?

We take a hard look at our clients' goals and an eager approach toward making progress against those goals. We often hear from clients how frustrated they feel – that they’ve been stuck in place for years with little to show for it. We love to turn that situation around. We don’t approach every problem with only one or two familiar solutions. Our deep background in the many types of remediation technologies is the ideal tool box for innovation and delivering solutions that other firms just don’t have the expertise with or can’t bring to the field in a cost-effective way.

For more information on System Design, contact Rich Farson.