2017 CPEO Military List Archive

From: Lenny Siegel <LSiegel@cpeo.org>
Date: Tue, 28 Feb 2017 14:58:03 -0800 (PST)
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] VOCs, CLEANUP: "Novel Strategy for Dealing with Toxic Contamination: Do Nothing"
Novel Strategy for Dealing with Toxic Contamination: Do Nothing

By Dan Ross 
Fair Warning 
February 28, 2017

At toxic cleanup sites across the country, environmental agencies have allowed groundwater contamination to go untreated and slowly diminish over time—a strategy that saves money for polluters but could cost taxpayers dearly and jeopardize drinking water supplies.

The strategy is called monitored natural attenuation, or MNA. With little public awareness or debate, it has come into increasing use nationally since the 1990s as a way to cope with the enormous cost of some groundwater cleanups.

Despite the imposing bureaucratic name, it basically means keeping a watchful eye while natural processes purge groundwater of chemical pollution. According to Environmental Protection Agency guidelines, it’s an acceptable approach under some circumstances. That includes when contaminants are expected to degrade in years rather than centuries, and where there is no risk of polluted water seeping into, and spoiling, fresh water supplies. MNA can be effective with contaminants such as petroleum hydrocarbons that are eaten by microbes in the soil and groundwater.

But some advocates and experts say MNA sometimes has been approved in violation of EPA guidelines. Because it is usually much simpler and cheaper than active cleanup methods—such as pumping water out of the ground and treating it—they say that MNA is being aggressively pushed by polluters at many contaminated sites, often with too little pushback from regulators.


For the entire article, see


Lenny Siegel
Executive Director, Center for Public Environmental Oversight
a project of the Pacific Studies Center
278-A Hope St., Mountain View, CA 94041
Voice: 650/961-8918 
Fax: 650/961-8918

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