INEEL launches comprehensive vadose zone management program

In many places, one of the earth's most important self-defense mechanisms - one that protects the water we drink - has been compromised. This region of soil and rock, called the vadose zone, is the layer of soil between the surface of the ground and the aquifer that filters and chemically changes contaminants trickling down through the earth.

The U.S. Department of Energy's Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL) is leading the development of a comprehensive vadose zone program that will foster technically grounded decision-making throughout the DOE complex in the characterization, assessment and remediation of contaminated vadose zone sites.

The INEEL is taking the first ground-breaking step to chart an integrated program for this poorly understood natural buffer by creating a roadmap that will guide the national agenda for funding vadose zone science and technology development. The INEEL sponsored the first meeting of an external advisory group in Idaho Falls, Idaho to plan activities for the national roadmapping exercise. Further meetings are planned throughout the summer and into the fall of 1999.

"This is an exciting opportunity for discovery," said project manager Tom Stoops. "The roadmapping process will help us plan long term for the vision of today's top scientists. Expertise from DOE sites, contractors, industry, other governmental agencies and universities will be utilized to leverage knowledge from other scientific disciplines as it applies to the vadose zone. This will cut costs and enhance the timely delivery of needed products to the end users."

In one of the world's largest environmental management programs, the DOE is responsible for cleaning up the radioactive, chemical and other hazardous substances left after 50 years of U.S. nuclear weapons production. Activities that once gave the nation a sense of security during World War II and the Cold War have left behind a legacy of problems and unease

Contact: Deborah Hill
DOE/Idaho National Laboratory

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