Internet focus groups and mailing lists for the environmental professional in site risk assessment and remediation

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  • Internet Focus Groups and Mailing Lists for the Environmental Professional in Site Risk Assessment and Remediation

    Tudoudh F. Guevin

    Turlougb F. Guerin is an environmental adviser with international experience in contami- nated site remediation and expertise in environ- mental risk management. He has prouided advice to US. corporation including Arcadis Geraghty C Miller, Levine Fricke Engineering, and Motorola In Australia and the Asia Pacific Region he has worked with Rio Tinto, including IT Technology Group and across its operations.

    In 1957,~i)ii1.~01*~piiter~across the UplitedStates werelinkedto form the first ziersion ojzuhat we noui knou, to be the Internet. The Intenzet hasgroum u q beyond zohat niiyone working zn the U S . Depatfment of Defense 3 special project teani, Advunced Research ProjectsAgency orDARPA, more than 40 years ago, could euer haue imagined. Yet despite thepheizomeiialgrowth of Intemiet users, nnd access to information in allfields of endeavor, finding genuine(y us&tl and he@fiil Irzternet resources is still a challenge. Knowl- edge shamng iii contaminated site assessment and reinediation is mcreas- ing and this is occiirring throiigh several mechanisms and at maq1 levels. Intemiational colluboration on site contaminatiori and remediation issues is becoming ettident at the highest level between countries. Lower-level interactions between organizations and individual practitioners are also in creasing . Formation o f p a anersh ips in implementing site assessment and remediatioil solzitions are becoming evident and there are now numerous websites, t-esulting ,from these collaborations, providivg jkee access fo completed repoj~s and related materials. Internet mailing lists contribute to sharing of knoiidedge at all these levels butpaaicularly encourage contri- butions from pructitioners and those out there doing the work and often without the time to write up thew contributions, though these can be substantial. 0 2000 John Wilej) G Sons, Inc.

    FOCUS The focus of this article is to answer the following question: How can

    environmental professionals, working in the contaminated soil and ground- water field, be most effective in accessing other professionals using the Internet? The purpose of this article is to provide answers to several pertinent questions relating to this focus on how environmental practitioners can

    0 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 83

  • TURLOUGH F. GUERIN

    Mailing lists on the Internet, covering numerous fields relating to site contamination and remediation including practical and commercial aspects, have emerged over the past decade.

    harness Internet focus groups or mailing lists. The note is based on the premise that sharing knowledge is a valuable activity and leads to the development of individuals in a profession but also increases the knowl- edge base in this important field. It in no way attempts to discuss intellectual property and commercial-in-confidence issues, though these need to be kept at the forefront of the minds of contributors to the Internet mailing lists.

    It should be mentioned that knowledge sharing in contaminated site assessment and remediation is increasing and this is occurring through several mechanisms and at many levels. International collaboration on site contamination and remediation issues is becoming evident at the highest level between countries (Guerin, in press).

    What Are the Key Internet Discussion Groups that I Should Know About?

    Mailing lists on the Internet, covering numerous fields relating to site contamination and remediation including practical and commercial as- pects, have emerged over the past decade. Most notable of these discussion lists are those on bioremediation, groundwater, environmental forensics, and phytoremediation (see Exhibit 1). These four lists are the most useful and credible sources of information on the topic of soil and groundwater remediation. These particular lists provide an important connection to the international environmental consulting and research profession for the following reasons:

    They are up-to-date and discussions cover topical and relevant issues. Discussions remain focused on the core themes of each discussion. Recognized professionals from around the world contribute. The ideas raised are thoroughly debated. They encourage contributions from a wide range of subscribers. They are neither academically or industry focused so they provide balanced viewpoints on the majority of topics discussed. These lists are not focused on any one or particular geographic region (though three of the four lists originated in the United States). There are, by and large, few postings that are completely off-topic or that have no relevance to the field. They are not dominated by any one individual or group, so there are always fresh and varied contributions and lines of argument.

    While these attributes may not necessarily define the lists in terms of their scientific quality (though the quality of the discussions are generally high), they are prerequisites for effective discussions on the topics of soil and groundwater contamination and remediation. Activity and relevance, which are both high on these lists, are actually the main measures of whether or not the list will be useful to the majority of subscribers.

    84 REMEDIATION/AUTUMN 2000

  • INTERNET Focus GROUPS AND MAILING LISTS FOR THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROFESSIONAL

    Exhibit 1. Key Internet Discussion Groups on Contaminated Soil and Groundwater and Keiiiecliation

    Internet discussion groups can wax and wane. However, the following lists are the most active, informative, and professional, and are currently available on the Internet. These four lists provide environmental professionals with four main gateways or meeting places on the Internet. If you are unsure as to which groups to join from the detailed list given in Exhibit 2 , then these are the ones to subscribe to. My only other comment on these lists is that because they have originated in the U.nited States, they have a large U S . component in the contributions, though this reflects iiiorc' of the leadership in the field than anything else. My suggestion is to use the digest mode of subscription for each of these lists simply to minimize the volume o f email coming to you.

    Bioremediation List. This list covers all aspects of bioremediation of contaminated soils, sediments, and water. The list includes over 2,300 members worldwide, including environmental consultants, industry representatives, regu- lators. researchers, educators, students, and others with diverse backgrounds in education and experience. Due to the complex biogeochemical processes that control biotr-ansformation, membership is open to environmental engineers, hydrogeologists, soil scientists, microbiologists, environmental chemists, and all who wish to contribute to this important topic. You can subscribe at http:// biogroup.gzea .coni/niembership/home.asp and go to http://gwrp.cciw.ca/internet/ bioremediation Aiorem-archive. htm to search the archives. This in itself provides an excellent database.

    Groundwater List. This is a high traffic discussion list discussing a broad range of issues relating to the science and assessment and remediation o f contaminated groundwater. It has more than 1,500 subscribers It covers all aspects of groundwater and its remediation, and is not restricted to groundwater cheinistiy or contamination but is a forum for just about any element of groundwater. You can subscribe at http://www.groundwater.com/gwdigest. htm.

    Environmental Forensics. This is a discussion of the science and technol- ogy to establish position in environmental disputes. It has a particular focus on analytical aspects of environmental contamination and remediation. There are some very instructive discussions on the characterization of pollutants in soils and groundwater on this list and in itself is sufficient reason for an environmental consult to be subscribed to it. You can subscribe at http://www.eliiiengineering.com.

    PhytoremediationList. This mailing list is for the discussion of research and development o f phytoremediation (the use of plants to remediate contamination). Topics relevant to the list include the uptake of groundwater and contaminants by plants, enhanced microbial activity in the rhizosphere, and phytotoxicity and revegetation in contaminated soils. It coinplements the Phytonet Discussion List described in Exhibit 2. To subscribe, go to http://wwn/.engg.ksu.edu/HSRC/ phytorendhome. html.

    REMEDIATION/AUTUMN 2000 85

  • TURLOUGH F. GUERIN

    It is interesting to note that, with all the trafic on the Internet, there are relatively few active discussions in soil and groundwater contamination and remediation.

    Will There Be an Internet Discussion Group that Addresses My Specific Needs as an Environmental Professional?

    It is interesting to note that, with all the traffic on the Internet, there are relatively few active discussions in soil and groundwater contamination and remediation. There are other less active mailing lists than those previously mentioned, including those that discuss the broader aspects of soil and groundwater contamination. These are:

    Soils; Sediments;

    Bioremediation; Phytoremediation; and Mining and the environment.

    Water and groundwater treatment and remediation;

    The more specific areas relating to soil and groundwater contamination and remediation are:

    Soil chemistry; Ecotoxicology; Soil organic matter; Water chemistry; Acid rock drainage; Hazardous waste; and Chemical and pollutant characterization.

    All of the mailing lists described in this column discuss technical aspects relating to these above listed topics. These lists, except those already described in Exhibit 1, are listed in Exhibit 2. The bullet points directly above are linked to specific lists through the column on Topics Discussed in Exhibit 2. In most cases, if you post a message that is not quite on topic, other subscribers will usually provide guidance on choosing a more suitable forum. It is worthwhile looking at or searching the online archives of these lists (where these are available) prior to posting your contribution. One of the key aspects of these mailing lists has been in the exchange of experiences, particularly those of practitioners, much of which is not covered in the scientific or trade journals.

    Do Internet Mailing Lists Foster International Collaboration in Environmental Management and Protection?

    This is probably one of the most beneficial aspects of Internet discussion groups. Without a doubt, environmental lists have and will connect professionals in all developing nations with those in developed countries. It should also be recognized that the level of skilled and knowledgeable workers is relatively low in the site contamination assess- ment and remediation field in many Asia Pacific and African countries, and harnessing these resources will be important for these countries to become competitive in this field. Practitioners are therefore encouraged to make

    86 REMEDIATION/AUTUMN 2000

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