Managing high density data conceptual site models in real time

Previous discussions here have focused on the need for high density data and the tools for collecting them. We have also discussed using these data to produce accurate conceptual site models (CSMs) to support remedy selection and design. It is important to manage high density data sets in real time in order to extract the information they provide to support on-site decision making and to communicate the data effectively to off-site stake holders and decision makers.

As discussed in the last newsletter, discrete soil and groundwater sampling with on-site EPA Method 8265 analysis produces 60-80 quantitative results per day. Direct sensing data collection tools discussed previously often product hundreds of semi-quantitative contaminant data points in addition to hundreds of geologic and hydrogeologic data points in a single penetration. All these systems produce very large volumes of data each day. For those who have not worked with these tools before, the shear amount of data can be overwhelming.

It is critical when planning a high density site characterization project to develop a data management and communication plan. Prior to arriving on-site, the initial CSM for the site should be constructed. This means that all previous contaminant, geologic and hydrogeologic data should be organized into tables, maps and, if desired, into three dimensional visual formats (3D). Then, when data are collected during field deployment, the CSM can be updated as needed. This happens most often on a daily basis at the end of the day to help select sampling locations for the following day.

There are a large number of programs, as well as off-site, on-line services that can be used to manage and visualize data. Using 3D visualization from the beginning of a project can be a very effective way to manage data and is an especially useful tool to communicate high density data to off-site stakeholders and decision makers. If you take the time to set up the CSM before arriving on-site, you really allow yourself to extract the maximum amount of useful information during field execution. The old adage really does apply: "A picture is worth a thousand words". 

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