- Jason Flattery

Many methods of high resolution site characterization (HRSC) have been around for years and gained wide acceptance in the regulatory and consulting communities. Yet, we often still hear a common refrain from some clients, a version of “I’d love to use an HRSC approach here, but I can’t justify the additional cost.”

If this sounds familiar, register for my upcoming webinar, How to Justify High Resolution Site Characterization to Your Clients. I’ll be covering this topic in-depth and taking questions, so please join me. If you can’t make it, register anyway and a link to the recording will be emailed to you.



I’ll admit that there are certainly situations where HRSC is not applicable, such as incredibly simple sites, sites with relaxed regulatory drivers, or sites with owners who aren’t concerned about effectively managing their liability. Those sites are generally straightforward and tend to need minimal management in the first place. I’m guessing that if you’re reading this, however, your sites are much more interesting. This blog post will cover why a properly designed HRSC program is part of a strategic project plan, not just an additional cost.



Effective management of a contaminated site requires a holistic view of the project lifecycle. Widening your view to see the entire lifecycle allows for the construction of a strategic plan. It is a means to finding the best possible outcome so you can invest resources in actions that specifically drive toward that goal.

A common trap we can fall into is the concern we are spending “too much on the diagnosis and not enough on the cure.” This is a truly unfortunate mindset—just ask anyone who’s implemented a remedy with an incomplete conceptual site model. In those cases, the remedy likely failed despite the best efforts of the remediation team. Iterative rounds of remediation often cost multiples of what a proper site characterization would have cost at the beginning of the project, in terms of money, time, and credibility. So, which characterization approach carried an “additional” cost? Depending on the scale of the project, investing that incremental $5K, $10K, even $100K in site investigation would have saved $20K, $100K, or millions in remediation costs. A better understanding of the problem always leads to better solutions.



There are several similar site management scenarios where the collective experience of the environmental industry demonstrates that HRSC is the best option. Some of these include:

  • Tight timelines. HRSC yields a more complete and reliable means of meeting regulatory or development deadlines, and it removes iterative rounds of both investigation and remediation activities.
  • Risk assessment. Achieving a more accurate understanding of the nature and extent of contamination can reduce the factors of safety applied on top of risk-based decision making for a site. It may even open up new future land use scenarios.
  • Remediation feasibility studies. Understanding the distribution of contaminants can greatly improve feasibility analyses. There is no better way to understand the effect of specific issues, like back diffusion, that may lead to a technical infeasibility determination.
  • Remedy design. This scenario is discussed by way of the example above.
  • Litigation support. The reduced uncertainty in the HRSC data set is recognized in litigation scenarios.

If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of HRSC or how to build a case for using it on your next project, join me for my upcoming webinar, How to Justify High Resolution Site Characterization to Your Clients. You can submit questions when you register (and enter to win pizza for your team), or ask them during the presentation.






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Jason Flattery is the Director of Operations, Site Characterization at Cascade Environmental. He holds a BS in Civil & Environmental Engineering from the University of Vermont, and an MBA from Boston University. In his 15 years working in the environmental services industry, he has developed expertise in using HRSC to provide solutions to complex site investigation problems, helping clients achieve closure faster and cost-efficiently.

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