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New technology vaporizes soil contamination

Published Oct. 12, 2018
At the request of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Louisville District environmental team has been providing field oversight of a soil and groundwater remediation system installation at a Superfund Site in Zionsville, Indiana. 

The innovative technology is called Electrical Resistivity Heating. It is an environmental remediation method that uses electricity to heat soil and groundwater. Once the system is turned on it will superheat the ground to vaporize and drive off volatile organic compounds from the impacted soil and groundwater thus cleaning the areas. The volatile contaminants are then captured in a vapor recovery system and filtered through air and/or water carbon filtration systems.

Before this technique came along, the Superfund trustees attempted to remediate the site using other environmental technologies. 

“The other technologies were not effective due to the tight, clay-rich soils, so the trustees were required by the EPA to find an alternate remedial action to clean the site,” said Mark Nichter, Louisville District geologist and technical manager for the project. 

The trustees selected Electrical Resistivity Heating treatment which is typically more expensive, but is also more effective in remediating the site.

The USACE team has reviewed the treatment system design plans and are now completing oversight of the system installation. This project uses personnel from the Louisville District’s environmental branch, the Indianapolis field office and the Huntington District. USACE’s Environmental and Munitions Center of Expertise in Omaha, Nebraska, assisted in the system design review.