New Paradigm of Monitoring Soil and Groundwater Contamination Under Changing Climate

Haruko Wainwright, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Shutterstock Soil Graphic

Long-term monitoring is critical for soil and groundwater contamination sites to confirm system stability, and to detect any anomalies in contaminant mobility (if they occur). In particular, there are growing concerns recently about the extreme weather and climate events on residual contaminants. The Advanced Long-term Environmental Monitoring Systems (ALTEMIS) project aims to establish the new paradigm of long-term monitoring based on state-of-art technologies – in situ groundwater sensors, geophysics, drone/satellite-based remote sensing, reactive transport modeling, and AI – that will improve effectiveness and robustness, while reducing the overall cost.

The project consists of (1) spatially integrative technologies for monitoring system vulnerabilities – surface cap systems and groundwater/surface water interfaces using geophysics, gamma-ray mapping and distributed sensors, and (2) in situ in-well sensor technologies for monitoring master variables that control or are associated with contaminant plume mobility and direction, (3) open-source machine learning framework, PyLEnM (Python for Long-term Environmental Monitoring) for spatiotemporal interpolations and monitoring design optimization, and (4) high-performance computing-based contaminant transport modeling for evaluating monitoring designs and climate vulnerability/resilience. This system transforms the monitoring paradigm from reactive monitoring – responding after plume anomalies are detected – to proactive monitoring – detecting the changes associated with the plume mobility before concentration anomalies occur. In addition, through the open-source package, we aim to improve the transparency of data analytics at contaminated sites, empowering concerned citizens as well as improving public relationship.

Speaker Bio: Dr. Wainwright is an assistant professor in the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She received her MS in nuclear engineering in 2006, MA in statistics in 2010 and PhD in nuclear engineering in 2010 from University of California, Berkeley. Her research focuses on environmental modeling and monitoring technologies, with a particular emphasis on nuclear waste and nuclear-related contamination. She leads and co-leads the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Long-term Environmental Monitoring Systems (ALTEMIS) project.

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