BUFFALO, N.Y. -- AMEC Geomatrix of Amherst, N.Y., has received
the National Ground Water Association's 2011 Ground Water
Remediation Award for an innovative nuclear waste cleanup project
that the company completed with University at Buffalo
The collaboration involved the construction of a massive,
permeable treatment wall (PTW) made from a volcanic mineral (a
natural zeolite) that removes radioactive strontium-90 from
groundwater at the West Valley Demonstration Project 30 miles south
of Buffalo. The wall is expected to be sustainable for at least 20
years, and the treatment method could be utilized at other
The team that designed the wall was led by UB geology alumnus
Rick Frappa, principal hydrogeologist and vice president with AMEC
Geomatrix, an engineering and consulting firm with offices
nationwide. Scott Warner in AMEC's Oakland, Calif., office
supported the evaluation of alternatives and PTW design.
Frappa's partners on the project included West Valley technical
staff, along with Alan Rabideau, UB professor of civil, structural
and environmental engineering, and Shannon Seneca, UB engineering
Seneca is a student in Rabideau's ERIE (Ecosystem Restoration
through Interdisciplinary Exchange) program, a collection of
academic programs and research projects that advance the science,
engineering and policy of ecosystem restoration in the Great Lakes
region. Funding and support for ERIE comes, in part, from the
National Science Foundation, corporate sponsors and local
The Ground Water Remediation Award recognizes outstanding
science, engineering and/or innovation in the area of remediating
"The PTW at West Valley is the first-in-the-world reactive
barrier installed using a continuous trenching machine to treat
in-situ strontium-90," Frappa said. "The PTW represents the
culmination of years of study and planning by the project team
which includes geologists and engineers at AMEC and West Valley and
researchers at the University at Buffalo."
The 3-foot-wide treatment wall at West Valley stretches for 860
feet and extends as much as 30 feet below the ground. The
installation contains over 2,000 metric tons of zeolite that
captures strontium-90 through a process known as "sorption."
Through his research, UB's Rabideau first demonstrated in 1999
that zeolite, composed primarily of the volcanic mineral
clinoptilolite, would be suitable for groundwater remediation at
West Valley. Later, he worked with Seneca to test the zeolite
sorbent and to use supercomputers to predict how long a zeolite
treatment wall would remain effective.
"From an environmental standpoint, the zeolite barrier should
effectively protect the Great Lakes watershed from West Valley
groundwater, without consuming substantial energy for operation and
maintenance," Rabideau said.
The 2011 Ground Water Remediation Award will be presented at the
2011 National Ground Water Association Ground Water Expo and Annual
Meeting on Nov. 30 in Las Vegas.
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public
university, a flagship institution in the State University of New
York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's
more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through
more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree
programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of
the Association of American Universities.
Radioactivity Will be Filtered for Decades by Volcanic Rocks at
Western New York Nuclear Waste Site: http://www.buffalo.edu/news/11878