Award-winning INEEL probe to help safely monitor hazardous waste sites

Chemicals buried underground don't always sit still. Sometimes, molecules of hazardous waste can travel out of landfills, wandering through soil layers near aquifers. Technology exists to monitor landfill perimeters, but scientists would prefer to keep an eye on contaminants long before they leave the area. Now with a new underground probing system from the Department of Energy's Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory, scientists can safely and more accurately sample and monitor soil in and below hazardous waste sites.

R&D Magazine declared INEEL's Geologic and Environmental Probe System (GEOPS) to be one of the 100 most significant technological achievements of 2004. Project leader Richard L. Jones, along with team members Tom Clark, Joel Hubbell, Buck Sisson, Jason Casper, Terry Turner, Louis Valenti and Andrew Baumer, will be recognized at the R&D Magazine awards banquet in Chicago on Oct. 14, 2004.

"Winning the R&D 100 award is more than just a good feeling," Jones says. "It should make it easier for us to help people investigate land throughout America and the world that might be contaminated with dangerous chemicals. GEOPS really showcases how science and engineering collaboration can solve difficult environmental problems."

Before INEEL's probing system was developed, geoscientists monitored waste sites by drilling around them -- a task as tough as trying to biopsy a tumor by sampling healthy tissue around it. Now, they can directly measure how hazardous chemicals change over time and tell immediately if they are moving away from the original site. "It's the first technology to be able to go down into contamination without disturbing the downhole conditions," Jones says.

The INEEL team's two-and-a-half-inch-diameter steel GEOPS owes its power to tough materials, unique design, and years of hands-on experience by its creators. "This technology wasn't born from trial and error," Jones says. "We sat down and th

Contact: Regina Nuzzo
DOE/Idaho National Laboratory

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