Geomorphology as an Aid to Hazardous Waste Facility Siting, Northeast United States
Nearly every conceivable option for management of hazardous waste entails some form of interaction with the ground, whether in processing waste toward neutralization or in the secure land burial of the waste or its residue of processing.
Almost all potential hazardous waste sites in the Northeast involve some aspect of hydrogeological or geological impact. Geological influences can profoundly affect the cost of development of a disposal or processing facility in terms of foundation design requirements. Some public officials have argued that geological influences are of low priority and the main siting concern should be in the sociopolitical aspects of implementation; disregard of geological factors in siting could be disastrous in terms of additional construction costs or adverse environmental impact. Geologic assessments are a must at every level of site selection and should be implemented at the earliest possible time in the site qualification process.
Geomorphic indicators provide the entry point in determining what siting options are actually available in a given state or county area. The authors prefer a version of the surficial engineering geologic mapping scheme of Galster (1977) and employ this to produce areal maps depicting geomorphic units of similar engineering and hydrogeologic properties.
This approach to regional and site-specific mapping also produces map units which portray the physical properties and geologic conditions which are most important in meeting state and federal hazardous waste management facility siting guidelines (US EPA 1980).
The region is mapped on a data compilation basis from existing sources; potentially attractive sites are identified and rated for environmental engineers, who then choose one or more candidate sites. The most attractive site is then field mapped according to the geomorphic scheme and a site exploration plan is developed to prove the site and to determine design-related physical properties, the groundwater assessment, and three-dimensional extent of the surficial geologic units.