UT Scientists’ Software Aids Environmental Cleanup Worldwide

KNOXVILLE –- University of Tennessee scientists are helping find more efficient and more effective ways to clean up environmentally contaminated sites.

A new federal contract will expand the capabilities of an innovative software program developed at UT that helps both characterize and guide remedial decisions at sites contaminated by radiation, toxic waste or other environmental hazards.

The software, called Spatial Analysis and Decision Assistance (SADA), allows those responsible for cleaning contaminated areas to build a comprehensive picture of the issues they will face in cleaning it. Land managers throughout the world now use it to develop plans to analyze and clean contaminated sites.

The $980,000 contract from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) will go to The Institute for Environmental Modeling (TIEM) at UT, which develops the SADA software.

TIEM director Louis Gross, UT professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and mathematics, said that the contract will be used to develop the software’s ability to analyze contamination below the soil surface in affected areas.

“There’s not a great deal of data available about contamination below the surface,” said Gross, a co-principal investigator on the contract. “This research will lead to better statistical methods for using that data, however limited, to understand how soil has been contaminated.”

The contract specifically focuses on enhancing SADA’s ability to design efficient methods to sample contaminated soil.

“It’s an expensive and time-consuming process to sample for subsurface contamination,” said Robert Stewart, the contract’s principal investigator and a senior research associate in TIEM and the UT/ORNL Joint Institute for Computational Sciences (JICS). “These improvements to the SADA software will allow investigators to make use of several forms of subsurface information, not just sample values, to provide a better picture of contamination.”

SADA creates a three-dimensional image of contamination in soil. The software uses that picture along with other statistical tools to determine the potential health and environmental effects of a cleanup.

TIEM Senior Research Associate Tom Purucker is the contract’s other co-principal investigator.

SADA has been developed over the past 10 years with collaboration and support from a number of parties including the Environmental Protection Agency, NRC, Department of Energy, ORNL and many federal contractors.

The software draws from many areas of discipline including risk assessment, sample design, spatial analysis, GIS, and decision analysis; and therefore includes many professionals from these and other organizations.

SADA is also gaining international interest with training opportunities and conference appearances abroad. Training for SADA is offered through the UT personal and professional development program.

The project will be housed at the JICS building on the ORNL campus. JICS is one of four joint institutes between UT and ORNL, part of the ongoing UT/ORNL partnership that includes the management of the lab as well as extensive shared research work.
For more information on SADA, visit http://www.tiem.utk.edu/~sada/
For more information on TIEM, visit http://www.tiem.utk.edu


Contacts:

Jay Mayfield, media relations (865-974-9409, jay.mayfield@tennessee.edu)