Toxics Action Center
Toxics Action Center

Monitoring a Cleanup

Learn the Basics

Start by reading SfA’s Hazardous Waste: Containing the Danger for a background on cleanup options and potential problems.

For a story of a community that faced a similar problem, see the article “Problem Solved? Residents Work to Make Sure Clean-Up is a Success” on pp. 28-29 of the Spring 2011 issue of the educational magazine The Change Agent. You can also watch the video From Superfund Site to Community Park for a story of a successful remediation effort.

Some future uses (like homes or a playground) will require a deeper and more expensive cleanup. Other future uses (like a business, industry, or parking lot) won’t need as deep or expensive a cleanup. Sometimes if you demand too much, you may get nothing at all. Learn the goal of your cleanup, and the standards that will need to be met.

Gather Data

If a cleanup is underway, there is very likely some kind of ongoing testing. They might be testing the groundwater to see if the cleanup is working. They might be testing the air or groundwater at the edges of a site to make sure contamination isn’t traveling offsite. Find a copy of the reports of test results. You may find data about emissions from a specific business on our Public Data page, under Info about Specific Polluted Sites Near You.

Understand What the Data Says

To better understand and analyze soil and water quality monitoring data, and to assess risk, use the SfA activities recommended in Soil & Water Quality Options.

Analyze the Data and Explore Strategies

Your strategy will depend on what you learn. If the cleanup is going well, you may not need to do anything but stay vigilant. Problems could include:

  • Contamination migrates offsite
  • Cleanup is unsuccessful or insufficient
  • The people conducting the cleanup want to stop before the site has reached target levels.

Make Your Case

If something is going wrong and you can’t convince the decision-makers directly, you will need to convince the community to put pressure on the decision-makers. Decide which information you want to focus on, and who the target audience is for your message. Then use Communicating with Numbers to help you prepare and polish that message.