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environmental pollution

What Can the COVID-19 Virus Tell Us About Environmental Pollution?

The spread of the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, around the world wreaks havoc on economies and populations. However, with a reduction of human activity around the globe, one area that’s benefitting from the new normal is the environment.

With most of the world’s populations facing extended lockdowns and governments enforcing social-distancing guidelines, the natural environment is thriving. Social media posts about wildlife roaming around city centers show that our effect on the environment remains concerning.

Profound and Lasting Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Researchers around the world agree that the COVID-19 pandemic will have lasting effects on human industry. While many people view the virus as an invisible enemy, responses from national governments are equal to wartime controls and mandates on populations. While there have been positive environmental impacts from the coronavirus response, researchers warn that the benefits shouldn’t be overestimated.

The Costs of the COVID-19 Response

As the world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been visible positive impacts on the environment. Although media outlets report improvements in air quality and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, the effects are only temporary according to researchers. At the same time, studies indicate that secondary pollutants like ground-level ozone have increased in some regions.

Nitrogen dioxide have decreased in the US, China, and Western Europe by as much as 60% during the pandemic. According to atmospheric scientists, these levels are unprecedented since they started monitoring air quality using satellites in the 1990s. While most of the environment is healing during the pandemic, researchers did find one concerning increase in pollution.

Surface Ozone Pollution at Ground-Level

One pollutant that has increased according to studies was surface-level ozone. This happens when there’s a drop in nitrogen dioxide pollution in major industrial centers around the world. Surface-level ozone is a secondary pollutant that forms when sunlight and high temperatures catalyze and create chemical reactions in the lower atmosphere.

Although researchers found an increase in these pollutants around the world, the decrease in nitrogen dioxide over major population centers remains promising. Considering this unintended experiment’s data can help researchers to develop strategies and methods that can improve atmospheric conditions in the future.

EEC Environmental and Pollution Control in the Future

Once the pandemic subsides and the world returns to normal, there will still be environments that require remediation and pollution control. EEC Environmental has a team of experts that can help public and private entities to understand the scope of these problems and develop innovative solutions to remediate environments.

The industrial revolution led to large-scale changes in our environment. What the COVID-19 pandemic shows is that taking any effort to reduce environmental pollution and remaining committed to the environment’s wellbeing remains a noble pursuit.

To find out how EEC Environmental can help your organization remediate a site or if you need to design a pollution prevention program, reach out to one of our experts today.

Environmental Technical Assistance Opportunity

Three Maryland food processing facilities to receive free assistance

The Maryland Department of the Environment has contracted with EEC Environmental to provide environmental opportunity assessments and technical assistance to three food or beverage manufacturing/processing facilities in Maryland.  EEC Environmental, a nationally recognized environmental consulting firm, will work directly with three selected facilities to identify opportunities and solutions for improving energy and water use efficiency, reducing chemical usage, hazardous and non-hazardous waste reduction, wastewater reduction and process optimization.  The purpose of these visits is not to advise on environmental compliance issues, but rather to identify voluntary actions that will reduce environmental impacts and reduce costs for the facility.

The participating organizations will be asked to provide facility access and information

to the EEC Environmental consultants and in exchange will receive the following services free of charge: 

  • A facility-wide audit to identify opportunities that increase the efficiency of resource use, reduce waste and related environmental impacts and save money.
  • A written report identifying opportunities related to energy efficiency, water conservation, waste reduction, recycling, composting, procurement, transportation, and cleaning.
  • Assistance in prioritizing these opportunities based on return-on-investment, payback period, environmental impact, feasibility, and owner/management priorities, and an outline of next steps for implementation.

Interested companies should contact the following individuals as soon as possible, but no later than June 1, 2020 in order to take advantage of this valuable program.


Tina Bickerstaff, EEC Environmental

Laura Armstrong, Maryland Department of the Environment

Latest News: California Sets the Lowest Notification Levels for PFAS in the Country

The California State Water Resources Control Board, Division of Drinking Water (DDW), has accepted the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment’s (OEHHA) recent recommendation on new lower Notification Levels (NLs) for PFOA and for PFOS. On August 23, 2019, the DDW announced it established notification levels for PFOS and PFOA at 6.5 parts per trillion for PFOS and 5.1 parts per trillion for PFOA. These new levels are set at the lowest levels at which they can be reliably detected in drinking water using currently available analytical detection methods.

More information can be found here.

EEC Environmental Spoke at the INEF 2018 Conference

EEC Environmental (EEC) presented and exhibited at the International Network of Environmental Forensics 2018 Annual Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, June 25-27, 2018. EEC’s Emily Vavricka spoke on how historical research methods are used in Environmental Forensic investigations in order to reconstruct past site histories and identify potentially responsible parties (PRPs) in environmental litigation cases.

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Why Do In-Situ Remediation Projects Fail?

In-Situ remediation refers to the cleanup of contamination in-place without the costly removal/ex-situ treatment of the soil and/or groundwater. In-situ remediation is often a logical choice for remediating a site due to the inherent cost savings; however, in some cases in-situ remediation is ineffective.

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EEC Helps Clients Recover Millions in Environmental Investigation and Remediation Costs from Old Insurance Policies

Insurance Cost Recovery – Are you staring at a costly site remediation or Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) allocation? Did these releases start before 1985? Did you have a comprehensive general liability (CGL) insurance policy at the time or did you purchase or acquire a property that was contaminated by others, in which the prior owner may have had a CGL policy?

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ABA SEER 46th Annual Spring Conference

EEC exhibited at the American Bar Association’s Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources, or  ABA SEER, 46th Annual Spring Conference in Los Angeles, California, in March.

EEC’s extensive litigation support and expert witness experience include:

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EEC Environmental Welcomes Senior Project Geologist

Jeff Hensel, PG Senior Project Geologist

EEC Environmental (EEC) is proud to announce and welcome Senior Project Geologist, Jeff Hensel, PG. Mr. Hensel’s responsibilities include technical oversight of site investigation and remediation projects, client development, staff mentorship, as well as general management responsibilities.

Mr. Hensel comes to EEC with more than 29 years of site investigation and remediation experience with a proven track record of technical project execution; project, liability and contractor management; project safety; governmental agency interaction; stakeholder engagement; staff mentorship; and customer satisfaction. He has an industry reputation for finding innovative cost-effective solutions for clients, thorough technical data analysis, strong organizational skills, and completing high-quality work.

Technical areas of expertise include Phase I ESAs; soil, soil gas, and groundwater investigations; and site remediation.  Jeff has experience with monitored natural attenuation, SVE systems, groundwater pump & treat systems, product recovery, chemical oxidation, enhanced bioremediation, air sparging, chemical fixation, and soil washing remedial technologies.

Mr. Hensel is a Professional Registered Geologist in California, Kentucky, and Wyoming.

Read more about EEC’s dedicated staff here.

EEC Honored To Host Chinese Delegation of Mayors

EEC hosts Chinese delegation of mayors

EEC Environmental (EEC) was honored to host a delegation of mayors representing 12 cities from the province of Shangdong, China.  The purpose of the visit was to observe state-of-the-art technologies for soil and groundwater remediation and industrial wastewater treatment.

The visit included tours of an operating soil and groundwater remediation system installed and operated by EEC and an industrial laundry facility using ceramic microfiltration to treat and recycle their wastewater.  The field visit was followed by two presentations at EEC’s Orange County office.

The first, an in-depth presentation of hydrogeologic processes, site investigation techniques and the latest soil and groundwater remediation techniques that would be applicable to pollution issues in the Shandong province.  The second, a presentation of the latest advanced wastewater treatment technologies that could be used by industries to improve Shangdong surface water quality.

EEC  provides an array of industrial pretreatment consulting services for wastewater agencies and private industries utilizing experienced engineers and chemists that are uniquely skilled in industrial wastewater issues. For agencies, EEC conducts local limits evaluations, develops industrial pretreatment ordinances and enforcement response plans, and assists in industrial user permitting. For industries, EEC designs and builds wastewater pretreatment systems and performs pretreatment system evaluations for flows up to 2.5 millions of gallons per day (MGD). EEC has unique expertise in developing technically based local limits and ensuring that industrial users have reasonable discharge permits.

EEC has also created and conducts an operator training program for industrial wastewater dischargers and assists industries in achieving compliance with their wastewater discharge requirements.

EEC also has significant experience with the evaluation of industrial laundry facilities that have been impacted by petroleum, chlorinated solvents, and other contaminants. EEC performs a wide range of activities for the laundry industry, including Phase I Environmental Site Assessments‎ (ESAs), compliance services, Phase II subsurface investigations, insurance cost-recovery, remedial services, regulatory negotiations, and litigation support.

Markets | International

EEC Vice President Spoke At Oil Extraction Symposium

A panel of scientists
Photo by Paul Rodriguez, OC Register Staff Photographer

EEC Environmental (EEC) Vice President, and Principal Hydrogeologist, Mark Zeko spoke at California State University, Fullerton’s campus as a panelist on Symposium on the Impact of Oil Extraction in North Orange County. The panel was comprised of distinguished scientists and industry representatives with expertise in hydraulic fracturing and its environmental impact.

Mr. Zeko addressed the environmental impact questions. EEC’s Vice President is a registered professional geologist/hydrogeologist who is licensed in 14 states and specializes in the remediation of groundwater, soil, and soil vapor impacted by industrial and commercial land use.

Mr. Zeko who is an expert in the field of hydrogeology and environmental geology spoke to the potential impact of oil pumping – including fracking – on groundwater and water quality.

Representatives of the local oil industry also presented information about ongoing oil drilling in north Orange County. Representatives of the California Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Energy Resources – the government entity responsible for overseeing oil production in California – was also on hand to discuss regulatory and policy aspects of oil drilling.

Click the following link for more information: http://nsm.fullerton.edu/fracking/panelists

Updated: Highlight of last nights conference on the Orange County Register.


Soil Vapor Extraction: A Proven Method of Reducing VOCs in Environmental Media

Soil vapor extractionSoil vapor extraction (SVE) is a proven in-situ technology used to remediate various volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from soil and soil vapor within the vadose zone. Vapor extraction involves applying a vacuum throughout the area of soil that has been impacted by VOCs. Through the pressure differential created between the extraction wells and the surrounding soil, VOCs are stripped from the soil by moving air through the vadose soil zone. The applied vacuum, contaminant characteristics, soil type, and the volume of air passing through the soil dictate the time required to remediate a site using SVE.

SVE is most effective for sites with (1) permeable soils where the wells are screened within distinct units and the site is capped or paved, and (2) on VOCs, such as many chlorinated solvents and hydrocarbons, that have high vapor pressures. Therefore, EEC strongly recommends that a pilot test is performed to evaluate and confirm the applicability of this or any remediation method. SVE also has the added advantage of mitigating the potential for soil vapor intrusion by removing vapor-phase VOCs trapped in the subsurface beneath buildings. SVE will remove the potential pathway for vapor migration to indoor air by creating and sustaining an applied vacuum to the subsurface, thereby creating a negative pressure gradient beneath the structure.

A generic SVE system is composed primarily of subsurface wells, remediation piping, a blower that exerts the vacuum, and the remediation equipment. The equipment needed will be determined based on the contaminant of concern. The two most commonly employed remediation equipment are thermal oxidizers and vessels filled with carbon-absorbent material. In an SVE system targeting chlorinated solvents, generally, two or three vessels are fitted together in series and filled with granular activated carbon. As the constituents of concern flow through the vessels they are absorbed into the carbon, thereby decreasing in concentration. In an SVE system targeting hydrocarbon contaminants of concern, a thermal oxidizer is used to fuel an incinerator that decomposes the hazardous gases then releases them into the atmosphere.

EEC Environmental currently operates and maintains six SVE systems within Southern California and is scheduled to start up a seventh SVE system in Northern California in early 2014. For more information about this or other effective remediation methods, please e-mail contact@eecenvironmental.com to contact a remediation expert.

EEC Attended State Bar of CA Environmental Law Conference Covering Environmental Issues

2013 Environmental Law ConferenceEEC Environmental continued its sponsorship and attendance at the State Bar of California 2013 Environmental Law Conference at Yosemite on October 24–27, 2013.

EEC’s booth provided information about the firm’s litigation support services, including contaminant investigations, remediation, hydraulic fracturing environmental support, industrial wastewater, NPDES compliance, and stormwater.

The Environmental Law Conference at Yosemite is nationally recognized as the largest and most prestigious gathering in California of leaders in environmental, land use, and natural resources law.

The following staff represented our firm at the 2013 conference:

  • John Shaffer, President, and Strategic Advisor
  • Mark Zeko, CHG, PG, Vice President and Principal Hydrogeologist
  • Greg Arthur, PE, Senior Project Engineer and 30-Year Veteran of EPA Clean Water Act Compliance Office
  • Emily Vavricka, MS, Environmental Forensics and Litigation Support Specialist

For more information about the State Bar of California Environmental Law Conference, please visit the State Bar website at http://environmental.calbar.ca.gov/Education/Yosemite.aspx


A Brief History of Hydraulic Fracturing


Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is a stimulation process used to extract natural gas (and in some cases oil) from deep reserves 5,000-8,000 feet below the ground surface.  This process allows energy companies to access previously unavailable energy sources in California and other states.

The fracking process involves pumping water, chemicals, and sand (proppant) slurry at high pressure into a well, which fractures the surrounding rock formation and props open passages, allowing natural gas to more freely flow from rock fractures to the production well.  The chemicals used in this process include but are not limited to benzene, gelling agents, crosslinkers, friction reducers, corrosion inhibitors, scale inhibitors, biocides and, in some cases, diesel fuel.

Once the well is developed, the carrying fluid can then flow back to the ground surface along with the gas. However, in most cases, only 20-40% of the carrying fluid flows back to the surface and the rest remains deep in the ground. Initially, the technology used 20,000 to 80,000 gallons of water per well, but today’s advanced fracturing techniques can use up to 8 million gallons of water and 75,000 to 320,000 pounds of sand (proppant) per well.


Despite a history that can be traced back to the 1940s, hydraulic fracturing had not been utilized on a massive scale until 2003, when energy companies began actively expanding natural gas exploration with an emphasis in shale formations in Texas, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Wyoming, Utah, and Maryland.

The expansion was aided by a landmark study conducted by the EPA in 2004 which found that hydraulic fracturing posed no threat to underground drinking water supplies.  Shortly afterward, hydraulic fracturing was exempted from the Safe Drinking Water Act by the Bush administration in the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

As the utilization of hydraulic fracturing grows, so does the level of controversy over the practice within the media and neighboring communities. Chief concerns include the high consumption of water resources, the generation of large volumes of wastewater, the irreversible injection of chemicals deep underground and their potential impact on drinking water and surface water resources.

In 2010 the Awareness of Chemicals Act, a bill to amend the Safe Drinking Water Act, was presented to legislators to repeal the 2005 exemption for hydraulic fracturing.  In addition, the EPA asked the companies that perform hydraulic fracturing to turn over data related to their procedures and information on the chemical composition of the fracking fluid and its effects on human health and the environment.

Furthermore, the EPA’s Office of Research and Development began conducting a scientific study to investigate the possible relationships between hydraulic fracturing and drinking water, with the intent to identify potential risks associated with hydraulic fracturing in order to continue protecting national resources and neighboring communities.  The final study results are expected to be released in 2012.

Although fracturing has long been used by California oil operators in drilling operations, to date, hydraulic fracturing has not received the same level of media and regulatory attention that it has in New York and Pennsylvania. Despite this, new state regulations are being drafted to further investigate this issue.

On June 1st, 2011, the California Assembly passed Assembly Bill 591, which would impose a number of new public disclosure requirements on operators conducting hydraulic fracturing operations in California. On June 14th, the bill passed the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee but was referred back to the Senate Committee on Environmental Quality.  As of now, a date for further review of the bill has not yet been determined.

Hydraulic fracturing has become a key element of natural gas development worldwide, and countries such as Canada, India, England, and China are actively pursuing implementation of this technology to tap into this new source of energy.  Nationally, hydraulic fracturing has brought jobs and revenue to remote rural areas and increased revenues in several states.  However, like any advanced technology, it has also raised questions about its long-term impact on the environment.   We expect research and debate to continue well into the future and we will follow up with new and upcoming regulations.