Green Glossary


Abandoned Well – A well whose use has been permanently discontinued or a well in a state of disrepair such that it cannot be used for its intended purpose.

All Appropriate Inquiries (AAI) – All Appropriate Inquiries is the process of evaluating a property’s environmental conditions, which may be relevant to assessing potential liability for any contamination.

Aboveground Storage Tank (AST) – Any tank, including aboveground piping connected to the tank, that is or has been used to contain hazardous substances or petroleum substances, and 90% of the volume or more is above the surface of the ground.

Area of Concern (AOC) – An individual site, multiple sites or program area identified through an environmental assessment or site investigation as a potential threat to human health or the environment that requires further investigation.

Aquifer – An underground source of water. This water may be contained in a layer of rock, sand or gravel.


Background Level – A typical level of a chemical in the environment.  Background often refers to naturally occurring or uncontaminated levels.  Background levels in one region of the state may be different than those in other areas.

Biodegradation – A process by which microbial organisms transform or alter (through metabolic or enzymatic action) the structure of chemicals introduced into the environment.

Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) – A test for water pollution. It measures the oxygen requirements for aerobic organisms as they digest the organic materials in a sample. Chemical oxygen demand (COD) is a somewhat more stringent test.

Biological Treatment – A process by which hazardous waste is rendered non-hazardous or is reduced in volume by relying on the action of microorganisms to degrade organic waste.

Bioventing – An in situ remediation technology that uses indigenous microorganisms to biodegrade organic constituents adsorbed to soils in the unsaturated zone.


Chlorinated Hydrocarbons – Refers to the list of Volatiles Organic Compounds (VOCs). Also known as Chlorinated solvents or Purgeable Halocarbons.

Cleanup – An action taken to deal with a release or threat of release of a hazardous substance that could affect humans and/or the environment. The term “cleanup” is sometimes used interchangeably with the terms remedial action, removal action, response action, or corrective action.

Contaminant – Any physical, chemical, biological, or radiological substance or matter that has an adverse affect on air, water, or soil.

Contaminant of Concern (COC) – Substances selected for remediation based on: (1) predicted impacts to surface water or groundwater resources; (2) concentration measurements above maximum contaminant levels; and (3) health risk posed by the contaminant.

Contamination Plume – The lateral and vertical extent of a contaminant in air, water, or soil.

Contaminant Standards – Limits on concentrations of contaminants in water, soil, sediments, or air established by federal, state, or local law or regulation.

Contamination – The degradation of natural water or soil quality as a result of human activities, to the extent that its usefulness is impaired. The degree of permissible contamination depends upon the intended end use, or uses, of the water.


Decontamination – The process of making any person, object, or area safe by absorbing, destroying, neutralizing, or making harmless by removing biological or chemical agents.

Disabled Veteran-Owned Business Enterprise (DVBE) – A business that is majority owned and managed by a disabled veteran. Certain government contracts require a percentage set aside to guarantee participation of disadvantaged businesses.

Dry Well – A well that does not extend into the water table or saturated zone.


Extraction Well – A well used for the extraction (or pumping) of groundwater or soil gas, usually as part of a remedial or removal action.


Feasibility Study – A study that compares different ways to clean up a contaminated site. The feasibility study recommends one or more actions to remediate the site. See “Remedial investigation”.

Friable – Easily crumbled or reduced into powder by hand pressure.


Groundwater Plume – A body of contaminated groundwater, originating from a specific source and influenced by such factors as the local groundwater flow pattern, density and concentration of contaminant, and character of the aquifer.


Hazardous Material – A substance or mixture of substances that has the capability of either causing or significantly contributing to an increase in mortality or an increase in serious irreversible or incapacitating reversible illness, or posing a substantial present or potential risk to human health or the environment. The Department of Transportation, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) regulate use of these materials.

Hazardous Waste – A waste that may pose a risk of endangering human health or safety or of degrading the environment. Possesses at least one of four characteristics (ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity, toxicity), or appears on special U.S. EPA lists.

Heavy Metals – Metals that have often been used in the manufacture of aircraft parts, pigments, inks, and paints. Some metals are toxic, especially cadmium, mercury, lead, and chromium, in the elemental form as well as in a compound. Chromium and nickel are known carcinogens.

Hot Spot – Typically, this represents an area of contamination 100 times greater than the maximum contaminant level and may be an indication of contaminant origin.

Hydrocarbons – Any of the numerous organic compounds that contain hydrogen and carbon; trichloroethene is a hydrocarbon. Some hydrocarbons are suspected of causing cancer; some are known to cause cancer.


Injection Well – A well into which fluids are injected for purposes such as recycling treated groundwater, improving the recovery of crude oil by injecting steam, or solution mining.

Injection Zone – A geological formation, group of formations, or part of a formation receiving fluids through a well.




Leachable – Describes the ability of toxic materials to be extracted from the soil be water in a natural environment.

Leaching – As water moves through soils or landfills, chemicals in the soil may dissolve in the water thereby contaminating the groundwater. This is called leaching.

Lead (Pb) – A heavy metal that is toxic and accumulates in the food chain. Lead is hazardous to health if breathed or swallowed. Its use in gasoline, paints, and plumbing compounds has been sharply restricted or eliminated by federal laws and regulations.

Lead-Based Paint (LBP) – Paint that contains 0.06% lead content by weight in a dry film as established by the Consumer Products Safety Commission.


Metals – A group of chemical elements characterized by their luster and ability to conduct electricity and heat. Some metals are toxic, especially cadmium, mercury, lead, barium, chromium, and beryllium, in the elemental form as well as in a compound. Arsenic, chromium, and nickel are known carcinogens. Ingestion of some metals such as copper and iron in small amounts is necessary for proper health.

Migration – The movement of oil, gas, contaminants, water, or other liquids through the environment especially through pores in soil or fractures in rock.

Mitigation – Actions taken to improve site conditions by limiting, reducing, or controlling toxicity and contamination sources.

Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) – A Minority Business Enterprise is a small business concern, as defined pursuant to Section 3 of the Small Business Act and implementing regulations, which is owned and controlled by one or more minorities.  Owned and controlled means, a business which is at least 51 percent of the stock of which is owned by one or more minorities. Certain government contracts require a percentage set aside to guarantee participation of disadvantaged businesses.

Minority – A person who is a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States and who is Black, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, Indian/Alaskan Native, members of other groups, or other individuals found to be economically and socially disadvantaged by the Small Business Administration under Section 8 (a) of the Small Business Act amended (15 U.S.C. 637 (a)).

Methyl Tert Butyl Ether (MTBE) – Is an organic compound used as a oxygenate added to reformulated gasoline that lowers tailpipe emissions of Carbon Monoxide and VOCs.


Naturally Occurring Background Levels – Ambient concentrations of minerals that are naturally present in the environment and have not been influenced by humans (e.g., aluminum, manganese).

Non-detects – Chemicals that are not detected in a particular sample above the lowest level the equipment can read. This limit usually will be the quantization limit for the chemical in that sample. (Note, however, that it is possible to detect and estimate concentrations of chemicals below the quantization limit but above the detection limit.)


Off-Site Facility – A hazardous waste treatment, storage or disposal area that is located some distance from the generating site.

Oil Water Separator (OWS) – A sump, pit, or tank used to slow the flow of an oil/water mix in order to let the oil and water separate naturally. The oil is usually pumped or piped from the top of the separator, and disposed of separately from the water.

On-Site Facility – A hazardous waste treatment, storage, or disposal area that is located on the generating site.

Operation and Maintenance (O&M) – (1) Activities conducted at a site after a cleanup action is completed to ensure that the action is effective and operating properly. (2) Actions taken after construction to assure that facilities constructed to treat waste water will be properly operated, maintained, and managed to achieve efficiency levels and prescribed effluent limitations in an optimum manner.

Organic – Generally considered as originating from plants or animals, and made primarily of carbon and hydrogen. Scientists use the term organic to mean those chemical compounds which are based on carbon.

Organic Vapor Analyzer (OVA) – A trade name for a flame ionization detector.


Priority Pollutant Metals – A list of 13 metals including Antimony, Arsenic, Beryllium, Cadmium, Chromium, Copper, Lead, Mercury, Nickel, Selenium, Silver, Thallium, and Zinc.


Quality Assurance (QA) – A system of activities to assure that the quality control system is performing adequately.

Quality Control (QC) – A system of specific efforts designed to test and control the quality of data obtained.


Registry of Inactive Hazardous Waste Disposal Sites – The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) maintains a list of inactive hazardous waste disposal sites in New York State. When DEC finds that a site may contain hazardous waste, the site is listed in the registry and a preliminary site assessment is planned. The status of the site is updated in the registry as investigations and remediation occurs.

Remedial Investigation (RI) – An in-depth study (including sampling of air, soil, water and waste) of a contaminated site needing remediation to determine the nature and extent of contamination. The remedial investigation (RI) is usually combined with a feasibility study (FS).

Remediation – Correction or improvement of a problem, such as work that is done to clean up or stop the release of chemicals from a contaminated site. After investigation of a site, remedial work may include removing soil and/or drums, capping the site or collecting and treating the contaminated fluids.

Risk Assessment – A process which estimates the likelihood that exposed people may have health effects. The four steps of a risk assessment are: hazard identification (Can this substance damage health?); dose-response assessment (What dose causes what effect?); exposure assessment (How and how much do people contact it?); and risk characterization (combining the other three steps to characterize risk and describe the limitations and uncertainties).

Risk Management – The process of deciding how and to what extent to reduce or eliminate risk factors by considering the risk assessment, engineering factors (Can procedures or equipment do the job, for how long and how well?), social, economic and political concerns.


Site Inspection: A site visit to evaluate the likelihood of human exposure to toxic chemicals, and to determine impact to the Site.”

Superfund (federal and state) – The federal and state programs to investigate and clean up inactive hazardous waste sites.

SVOCs – Acronym for Semi-Volatile Organic Compounds, Also referred to as BNAs or EPA 8270


TCLP – Acronym for Toxicity Characteristic Leachate Procedure and is used to characterize the mobility of both organic and inorganic analytes present in liquid and solid wastes. It is an extraction method prescribed by CFR (Code of Federal Regulations). The extraction process takes 18 hours.

TDS – Acronym for Total Dissolved solids.

Topography: The configuration of the surface area, including its relative elevations and the position of natural and artificial features.

TPH – Acronym for total Petroleum Hydrocarbons, It is the measure of the total amount of fuel present in the sample. TPH results can be quantified or calculated as: Totals as specific fuel types (TPH as Diesel, TPH as Gasoline); Totals in specific carbon ranges.


Underground Storage Tank (UST) – As defined and regulated by RCRA, a tank with 10% or more of its volume underground including piping connected to the tank; used to store petroleum products or CERCLA-regulated hazardous chemicals.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) – The independent federal agency, established in 1970, that regulates environmental matters and oversees the implementation of environmental laws. As part of its mandate, the U.S. EPA regulates all aspects of hazardous waste, published in Section 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations.


Volatile – Evaporating readily at normal temperatures and pressures. The air concentration of a highly volatile chemical can increase quickly in a closed room.

Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) – An organic chemical that evaporates readily. Petroleum products such as kerosene, gasoline and mineral spirits contain VOCs. Chlorinated solvents such as those used by dry cleaners or contained in paint strippers are also VOCs.


Water Table – The level below which the soil is saturated with water. Water located below the water table is referred to as groundwater.

Well Log – A record of installation of a well. It includes construction specifications of the well, depth, owner, location, a description of the profile, and the well driller prepares it. American Environmental prepares well logs for all subsurface investigations.

Wetlands – An area that is regularly saturated by surface or groundwater and subsequently is characterized by a prevalence of vegetation that is adapted for life in saturated soil conditions. Examples include swamps, bogs, fens, marshes, and estuaries.

Woman Business Enterprise (WBE) – A Woman Business Enterprise is a small business concern, as defined pursuant to Section 3 of the Small Business Act and implementing regulations, which is owned and controlled by one or more women or, in the case of a publicly owned business, at least 51 percent of the stock of which is owned by one or more women. Certain government contracts require a percentage set aside to guarantee participation of disadvantaged businesses.

Green Glossary