Who, What, When, Where & Why: Environmental Forensics

 

Questions regarding environmental forensics will come up at some level in almost every environmental project.

Cross Section Plume Map - Environmental Forensics
Site Conceptual Model – Cross Section of a Plume Map

This can range from drawing conclusions about a release from a UST system to sophisticated analysis of large environmental datasets collected specifically to identify contributions from multiple sources. The purpose of forensic interpretation is to tell a story. The story becomes most interesting when some or all responsibility shifts from one party to another. In many ways, this is a natural extension of developing a site conceptual model (SCM), and much of the data required for telling the story is collected as part of most primary environmental investigations. Do you need forensic data interpretation or interpretation of forensic data?

To get the most value for your dollars spent, it might be helpful to think of forensic techniques as a specialized way in which environmental data is evaluated rather than as a series of analytical techniques. Commonly collected data can have significant forensic implications, boring logs, slug tests, GC chromatograms and tentatively identified compounds (TICs) all have a story to tell. Prior to investing in the collection of dedicated forensic data, a good consultant will fully understand what answers you need and evaluate how close you are to those answers using data you already have. It may be, for example, that the data required to delineate and characterize the basic fate and transport of a chlorinated compound in groundwater, for regulatory purposes, is also sufficient to constrain the potential release date with the required precision. Or, the presence or absence of various gasoline oxygenates in a BTEX plume may be enough to identify the decade in which the release occurred.

 

 

A number of specialized analytical techniques can provide specific data useful for environmental forensics.

Chromatogram - Environmental Forensics
TPH Chromatogram

Only after reviewing existing data in light of the SCM can you start looking at the analytical techniques people usually associate with environmental forensics. The most basic may be petroleum fingerprinting, looking at the composition of LNAPL or petroleum in soil or water to identify the type of product present and degree of weathering. Like everything else in life, this can be done quick and inexpensive with moderate precision or slower and at greater cost for greater precision and defensibility. There are no foolproof analytical methods to date petroleum releases. However, the Christensen and Larsen (1993) method is often used to estimate the date of diesel/#2 fuel oil releases. This method is based on observed changes in the ratio of compounds over time due to biodegradation. While used with success in many cases, the further your site conditions are from those on which the method is based, the greater the caution should be exercised in interpreting results.

 

Moving beyond petroleum, a wide range of forensic techniques are available for different circumstances with an equally wider range in cost. With the right circumstances, specific tools like PCB congener analysis, stable isotope measurements, extended PAH analysis or sediment and groundwater age dating can provide key information to distinguish multiple sources or refine the understanding of contaminant fate and transport. As always, there is a tradeoff between the cost of sample collection and analysis and the need to document results with sufficient certainty to stand up to hostile scrutiny.

 

 

Leveraging existing data can ensure your environmental forensic efforts get you the answers you need.

You hope that you know (and like) what results you get from a forensic investigation. But even starting with a well-developed SCM, expect some surprises when the analysis and data evaluation are performed. The real life messiness of even the best environmental data is, on its own, a good reason to develop specific and realistic goals for a forensic evaluation before data collection. Developing those goals is easier when you are making the best use of the data you already have.

 

 

 

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Complete Your Written Hurricane Plan – Hurricane Preparedness Week

Rochelle Brittingham

Storm - Complete Your Written Hurricane Plan - Hurricane Preparedness Week

Preparing for disasters is just as important for business as individuals, as many families’ livelihoods can depend on a business keeping its doors open. Business continuity planning often focuses on IT and data preservation for good reason, but think through all aspects with some of the many resources available online and through emergency management offices in your state.

 

Every business should go through planning steps to be prepared. Investing effort into a preparedness program can save time and money in the long run. But once a plan is in place, don’t forget to test it. Testing identifies crucial gaps in planning as well as determining what just doesn’t work. Because – let’s face it – it’s easier to fix problems and make improvements without a hurricane bearing down on you.

 

Items one should potentially keep in mind while planning:Trim Trees - Complete Your Written Hurricane Plan - Hurricane Preparedness Week

  • Does everyone have everyone else’s contact information?
  • What if people can’t get to the office? Can people work from home in certain instances?
  • Are certain people responsible for securing equipment or doing particular tasks? Do they know it’s their responsibility?
  • Have you done a site search on things that could damage your business or infrastructure (e.g. are tree branches away from the roof and power lines)?
  • Are there supplies available to board up windows or keep water from breaching the structure(s)?
  • Does it make sense to have agreements in place with other companies in order to help your business out if assistance is needed? Power companies come to one another’s aid when damage is extensive. Do you have companies you would rely on to help you get back on your feet?

 

While some environmental planning requirements may touch on natural hazards (e.g. SPCC), best practices can go beyond legal requirements. For instance, EPA has begun to provide guidance on considering climate change in remedial design. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection – Site Remediation Program will shortly be releasing a new guidance document titled Planning for and Response to Catastrophic Events at Contaminated Sites. This guidance (which includes content written and developed by Brownfield Science and Technology’s Nicholas Santella) discusses planning to increase the resilience of operations at remediation sites in the face of catastrophic events.

 

Write a Plan - Complete Your Written Hurricane Plan - Hurricane Preparedness WeekFinally, businesses should encourage their employees to make a plan. Employees should plan on having items that address their specific needs, such as medications or other personal requirements. Going through the process of planning helps people to decide what they need to have with them if they are required to evacuate, as well as if they needed to shelter-in-place. Planning also serves a dual purpose when employees discuss with their families what supplies are needed at home and what needs to be taken to work to prepare for being cut-off from daily services.

 

For more resources on planning for a hurricane, visit NOAA online:

http://www.nws.noaa.gov/com/weatherreadynation/news/160404_hurricane_prepare.html

 

 
Rochelle Brittingham PhD, MPA is an expert in emergency management with a focus on planning for the needs of people with disabilities or access and functional needs during disasters. She has over 10 years of experience in social work, grant writing and community outreach. Currently, she is employed at the University of Delaware Center for Disabilities Studies. She is also a Delaware Community Emergency Response Team instructor.

 

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Identify Your Trusted Sources of Information for a Hurricane Event – Hurricane Preparedness Week

SuperCell - Hurricane Preparedness Week - Trusted Sources of Information

Take simple steps to keep you alerted.

 

Staying aware of developing weather is critical to taking timely action for the safety of personnel and property. Tracking weather may not be high on your list of priorities during a busy workday, so take the time now to make sure that information will come to you when you need it.

 

Text Message Alert - Hurricane Preparedness Week - Trusted Sources of Information
Get emergency alerts sent directly to your phone.

Be sure to activate emergency alerts if available on your phone.

Every phone is different, so there isn’t one simple way to turn on alerts. Refer to the phone’s user manual or use the internet to search how to allow emergency alerts to be sent to your phone.

 

Consider getting a NOAA radio and programming it to receive alarms for your county.

NOAA radios are available online or in many stores. Learn more about NOAA weather radio at: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr/

 

Sign up for text and email alerts.

A number of third party services allow you to subscribe to National Weather Service alerts and warnings by email and text message, so consider using the following link to sign up for a service: http://www.weather.gov/subscribe

You can also sign up for alerts based on USGS stream gauge data, a good idea if you have a site vulnerable to inland flooding:  http://water.usgs.gov/wateralert/

 

 

 

For additional sources, check out:

http://www.nws.noaa.gov/com/weatherreadynation/news/160404_hurricane_info.html

Bookmark the links most relevant to you so you can find them easily the next time bad weather threatens.

 

 

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Strengthen Your Business – Hurricane Preparedness Week

Strengthen Your Business - Hurricane Preparedness Week

NOAA mentions the importance of strengthening your home if you plan to ride out a storm, but a business owner needs to remember to prepare a second abode for bad weather: the workplace. It’s important to make sure your building is strong enough to hold up against a natural disaster. Vulnerable businesses and other sites can be retrofitted to be less vulnerable to hurricane damage in similar ways to homes.  An important and relatively inexpensive measure is to elevate critical equipment such as utilities or IT infrastructure above projected flood levels. In highly vulnerable or especially critical structures, installation of flood barriers may be a good investment now to save you in the future.

 

Tank - Strengthen Your Business - Hurricane Preparedness WeekOne hazard often unrecognized in both homes and businesses is the threat from hazardous or flammable materials stored in areas that could flood, most commonly stored heating fuel. Above-ground storage tanks (ASTs), propane tanks of all sizes and other small-scale chemical stores are often lost in flooding events. Even underground storage tanks (USTs) can be vulnerable to buoyancy induced damage or water infiltration during flood events. However, if planned for ahead of time, it is possible to anchor tanks and other storage vessels with cables or tie downs and move small vessels to secure storage areas so they don’t float away.

 

 

For more ideas on how to strengthen your home or business against a hurricane, visit:

http://www.flash.org/peril_hurricanes.php

 

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Assemble Disaster Supplies – Hurricane Preparedness Week

Rochelle Brittingham

 

Hurricane Sandy - Assemble Disaster Supplies - Hurricane Preparedness Week
Photo courtesy of R. Brittingham and the Disaster Research Center (University of Delaware). Fire damaged blocked assess after Hurricane Sandy in the Far Rockaways.

 

Every business needs to be stocked and ready.

 

 

It is important to have disaster supplies available year-round.

The days leading up to hurricane landfall allow for businesses, as well as employees, to finish obtaining supplies and getting items that may be more specific to certain needs (as discussed in FEMA’s Emergency Preparedness documents), but waiting until last minute may be too late. There is no telling how long regular services will be disrupted and what sort of damage an area may experience. Being caught unaware or unprepared can cost a company time and money.

 

 

Hurricane Sandy 2 - Assemble Disaster Supplies - Hurricane Preparedness Week
Photo courtesy of R. Brittingham and the Disaster Research Center (University of Delaware). Disrupted infrastructure in the Far Rockaways after Hurricane Sandy.

Test your emergency equipment before it is needed.

Businesses that have ride out crews – crews that remain to ensure critical infrastructure continues functioning during a hurricane at such businesses as refineries, chemical plants, etc. – may be more likely to ensure disaster supplies are on hand year-round for unexpected disaster events. Critical infrastructure and services that should not go down during disasters, such as powering flood control measures, rely on redundant systems and back-ups. Generators become crucial to keeping important electrical functions running during power outages (as experienced during the power outages caused by Hurricane Sandy) and should be tested ahead of time for days, not just a few hours. Murphy’s law says a generator isn’t going to fail during the first few hours; if it fails, it’s going to fail on day two of a four-day event without power.

 

 

Be prepared for a company sleepover.

For other businesses that find they may not usually need to have crews available to oversee infrastructure, businesses should still evaluate whether they are prepared to have employees shelter-in-place at the work location. There needs to be enough supplies on hand for everyone, and business owners need to be able to communicate with their employees. A company may unexpectedly face the possibility that employees are unable to get home safely due to flooding or find employees are unable to travel back and forth to work due to impassable roads. In cases like that, having supplies on hand is critical to remaining operational.

 

 
Rochelle Brittingham PhD, MPA is an expert in emergency management with a focus on planning for the needs of people with disabilities or access and functional needs during disasters. She has over 10 years of experience in social work, grant writing and community outreach. Currently, she is employed at the University of Delaware Center for Disabilities Studies. She is also a Delaware Community Emergency Response Team instructor.

 

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Secure an Insurance Checkup – Hurricane Preparedness Week

Dennis Hollatz blog filled

 

Flooding - Insurance - Hurricane Preparedness Week

Weather the Storm Financially with an Insurance Checkup

Profit, growth and stability are common businesses goals at risk when a natural disaster can demolish what may have taken generations to build. Many successful businesses transfer this risk through an insurance policy. The policy is a contract that should be periodically reviewed to help assure the needs of a business are covered.

 

One of the perils from a hurricane is flood.

Business Flooding - Insurance - Hurricane Preparedness WeekThe standard insurance property policy does not generally cover damage from the rising waters of a flood. A policy to cover this gap in coverage is available where floodplain management regulations apply through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  These policies are purchased from a licensed property insurance agent or broker authorized to issue the coverage.

 

Basic building flood insurance coverage goes up to $500,000 to repair or replace the insured building and its foundation, and other equipment such as electrical and plumbing systems, central air conditioning, furnaces and water heaters. The building contents such as tools, machinery and equipment will need to be covered with a separate flood policy. Higher limits of insurance might be available with an excess flood policy purchased outside of the NFIP policy. Discuss with your agent about the coverage types and limits of coverage needed.

 

Business owners and residents who own property in high-risk areas are required to purchase flood insurance if they have a mortgage from a federally regulated or insured lender. A policy could be purchased for just about any location, even for those outside of a flood zone.  Locations less vulnerable to flooding are often eligible to purchase a policy at a much lower price.

 

Waiting until the last minute to purchase flood insurance is too late. There is a thirty-day waiting period, so you can’t purchase flood insurance just before the big storm and then cancel after the storm passes.

 

Other hurricane damages to property can result from high winds, wind-driven rain, hail and lightning which is usually covered under the standard property policy. However, many insurers have applied exclusions in some areas, so this also should be discussed with your agent.

 

 

Many businesses never reopen following a major disaster.

There is no revenue generated, but the bills keep coming. Employees may be unavailable to work when families are hurt or homes are destroyed. A damaged piece of machinery could be hard to replace and reduce productivity. Insurance is available to cover the loss of income from business interruption, however, this is usually not covered when the loss is caused by a flood.  On the other hand, there might be coverage if the terms in the policy will pay when civil authorities order an evacuation. Read your policy and ask questions.

 

A few questions to ask:

  • What flood zone is the business in?
  • What will and won’t be covered in case of flood damage?
  • What coverage options are available?
  • How is the property valued: according to replacement cost or a depreciated actual cash value?
  • How is underground property like basements, vaults and tanks covered?
  • If needing to rebuild, is building ordinance coverage provided to upgrade to building code?
  • How are extra expenses covered?
  • Is there a coinsurance penalty?
  • Are contents coverage limits adequate?
  • How is the company’s income from operations that rely on another entity covered?

 

 

Dennis Hollatz has over 30 years of insurance industry experience. He is currently a staff consultant for field services and risk management of commercial business insurance exposures at Federated Insurance.

 

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Developing an Evacuation Plan – Hurricane Preparedness Week

Hurricane - Evacuation Plan - Hurricane Preparedness Week

Plan out where everyone and everything must go.

 

Historically, industry has been concentrated along or near waterways. As a result, many businesses handling hazardous materials as well as many brownfield sites are vulnerable to flooding. With hurricane season just around the corner, those with businesses or homes in flood and storm surge prone areas need to be very aware of their risks. Everyone must have a plan to evacuate safely when instructed to do so.

Safety of employees and others is a high priority, but a business owner may also benefit from planning a way to safely evacuate equipment or supplies from risky areas ahead of time. Telling people to safely head home is one thing, but getting heavy equipment relocated can be much more difficult. Planning the transportation of equipment and deciding where it will be securely stored is best determined well in advance. Five hours to landfall is not the time to decide how and where to move that expensive trailer. Think about your evacuation needs now and plan accordingly to save time, money and your business from more damage than need occur.

 

For more information on developing an evacuation plan or to see if your business or home resides in a storm surge prone area, check out NOAA’s Hurricane Preparedness Week site:

http://www.nws.noaa.gov/com/weatherreadynation/news/160404_hurricane_evacuation.html

 

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Determine Your Risk – Hurricane Preparedness Week

 

Every business should be prepared.

As NOAA notes, hurricanes are not just a coastal hazard; inland flooding is a serious issue that can cause severe damage and is known to be the most common cause of hurricane-related deaths. Hurricanes, flooding, strong winds and resulting power outages can reach far inland and hit businesses that may not have anticipated being affected by the storm. For example, businesses have reported an increasing number of hazardous material and petroleum releases caused by hurricanes; about 3% of these occur in inland states with many more in inland areas of coastal states.

 

Increased Hurricane Activity - Determine Your Risk - Hurricane Preparedness Week

 

The good news is that it’s never been quicker or easier to evaluate your natural hazard risk. There are multiple resources out there that you can use to understand how a hurricane may affect your business:

 

  • FEMA flood maps are still the go-to source of flood hazard information. Plug in the address of your business, home or project site to get a good idea of historic flood risk.

 

 

 

  • On a more local level, there have been a number of efforts to create easy-to-use tools for evaluating flood hazards in the Northeast. There are mapping tools for New Jersey and Maryland that include data on flood, sea level rise and storm surge information as well as data on sea level rise in Delaware.

 

 

 

With so many resources available, the real danger for a causal user is getting overwhelmed and not using any of them. We encourage you to get on one of these easy-to-use websites now and get to know the potential natural hazard risks of your business or other places of interest.

 

 

 

For more on Hurricane Preparedness Week, visit:
http://www.nws.noaa.gov/com/weatherreadynation/news/160404_hurricane_hazards.html

 

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