Increasing costs in environmental restoration activities combined with increasing public skepticism regarding the ability to make progress toward cleanup has led several agencies in the United States to seek solutions through streamlining initiatives. One of the most successful of these initiatives was developed by the US Department of Energy, and later adapted by the U.S. Army for application at their sites. The core of the initiative is the articulation of what are called the Principles of Environmental Restoration. These principles, based on extensive field experience and successful project management, draw on the flexibility contained in the underpinnings of current U.S. environmental restoration program (CERCLA and RCRA (HSWA)) streamlining initiatives. The principles are supported and applied at environmental restoration projects through a set of tools that assist project decision makers in developing problem statements, organizing and communicating site data, identifying data needs (versus data gaps), selecting likely response actions early on, and determining the most appropriate uncertainty management strategy. These management tools are then used to track progress, modify decisions, evaluate cleanup strategies, and communicate uncertainties and other key project information to internal and external audiences throughout the life of the project. The four Principles of Environmental Restoration are:
• Developing effective communication and cooperation with a Project Management Team (PMT) is essential;
• Clear, concise, and accurate problem identification and definition are critical;
• Early identification of likely response actions is possible, prudent, and necessary; and
• Uncertainties are inherent and will always need to be managed.
The principles are presented at sites in a variety of ways, including facilitated workshops focused on very specific restoration challenges, technical reviews focused on specific remediation decisions, and site-wide programmatic evaluation of how the remediation process is being implemented. While the principles do not present new concepts in and of themselves, they provide the framework that encourages the project management team to focus their attention on key decisions that have to be made in order to reach their remediation objectives. The continued emphasis on decisions and data needed to make these decisions is the basis for moving forward. The focus on decisions, in combination with the emphasis on communication and cooperation among all key decision makers at a site has resulted in protective solutions with significant economies and acceleration. Sites report dramatic improvements not only in cost and schedule reduction (ranging from a few months to several years reduction in overall project schedule), but also in the ability of the site personnel to communicate effectively with their management and with the environmental regulatory community to ensure that the most effective strategy is being employed at their sites.