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Title page for ETD etd-03302005-112839

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Kostelnik, Kevin Michael
Author's Email Address kevin.m.kostelnik@vanderbilt.edu
URN etd-03302005-112839
Title An Analysis of Institutional Responsibilities for the Long-term Management of Contaminant Isolation Facilities
Degree PhD
Department Environmental Engineering
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
James H. Clarke Committee Chair
David Kosson Committee Member
Jerry Harbour Committee Member
Mark Abkowitz Committee Member
Mark Cohen Committee Member
Michael Vandenbergh Committee Member
  • residual contaminants
  • institutional controls
  • waste management
Date of Defense 2005-02-22
Availability unrestricted
Near-surface contaminant isolation facilities are routinely used for the disposal of hazardous and radioactive waste. The objective of these facilities is to maintain the long-term isolation of the identified contaminants as well as to mitigate their associated hazards. Society’s experience with modern isolation techniques is beginning to show that these facilities and associated management techniques do not always perform as expected.

This research investigated the potential failure of contaminant isolation facilities. Failure, in the context of this research refers to a contaminant isolation facility’s inability to maintain contaminant isolation. Errors were viewed as potential precursors to future failure as they are an indication that actions did not go according to the plan or that the plan itself was inadequate to achieve the objective.

This research used a multiple case study design to further investigate what barriers and controls are used for long-term contaminant isolation and how these controls are currently performing. Seven case study reports were developed as part of this research. The sites investigated included Anaconda, Burrell, Canonsburg, Love Canal, Maxey Flats, Rocky Mountain Arsenal, and Spring Valley. Each of these cases involved sites where persistent contaminants were isolated on-site in the shallow subsurface. A cross-case failure analysis was then performed. Fault trees were developed and are presented in this research to illustrate potential failure pathways for each of the contaminant isolation facility controls.

Individual controls were found to contain many single point errors. These controls can be described as non-robust in that one event could potentially lead to a control error. System failure was found to require the breach of an engineered barrier. For engineered barrier error to occur a prior institutional control error must occur. Institutional control error alone does not appear to lead to system failure. Institutional control error, however, could be viewed as precursors to potential system failure. The lack of information management, stakeholder awareness and adequate resources were found to be key initiating events potentially leading to system failure. These initiating events could lead to latent institutional control error, which are not fully realized until subsequent events occur.

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