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U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL
Hyperspectral Imaging Can Be
a Useful Evaluation Tool for
Office of Inspector General
Reviews Focused on
Contaminated Land
Report No. 14-N-0360
September 26, 2014
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Report Contributors:	Rick Beusse
Christina Lovingood
James Hatfield
Kathryn Hess
Patrick Milligan
Natasha-Ahsaki Henry
Bakari Baker
Kevin Good
Abbreviations
EPA	U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
HSI	Hyperspectral Imagery
OIG	Office of Inspector General
RCRA	Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
USGS	U.S. Geological Survey
UST	Underground Storage Tank
Cover photos: From left: Civil Air Patrol's Airborne Real-Time Cueing Hyperspectral
Enhanced Reconnaissance (ARCHER) sensor; example of a brownfields site
where hyperspectral imagery was collected. (USGS photos)
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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of Inspector General
At a Glance
14-N-0360
September 26, 2014
Why We Did This Review
We conducted this review to
determine whether
hyperspectral imaging (HSI)
data is a useful tool for the
U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) Office of
Inspector General (OIG) to
assess conditions and
effectiveness of cleanup
actions at Superfund,
Brownfields, Resource
Conservation and Recovery Act
Corrective Action, and
Underground Storage Tank
sites.
HSI is similar in concept to
satellite images. HSI is a type
of remote sensing technology
used on an airborne
hyperspectral sensor that
records reflected and emitted
electromagnetic energy in
hundreds of very narrow
wavelengths. The data can
assist in the identification and
analysis of environmental
conditions and certain
contaminants.
This report addresses the
following OIG goal:
 Contribute to improved
human health, safety, and
the environment.
Hyperspectral Imaging Can Be a Useful
Evaluation Tool for Office of Inspector General
Reviews Focused on Contaminated Land
What We Found
Starting in December 2007, in coordination with
the U.S. Geological Survey, the OIG has been
assessing the feasibility of using remote sensing
technologies for OIG oversight of the
effectiveness of EPA cleanup actions. We
conducted HSI work at 40 sites in seven states.
Hyperspectral imaging is
an evaluation tool that has
specialized value in
designing and conducting
Office of Inspector General
assessments of cleanup
actions.
Our work shows that HSI is useful in identifying vegetative stress on land related
to the presence of certain heavy metals, such as lead and arsenic. HSI is also
useful for identifying debris on land. HSI can be useful during the scoping phase
of an audit or evaluation to screen multiple sites and select a smaller, more
relevant sample of sites for on-site visits and further review. In our work, when
the HSI indicated little vegetative stress, we also found that sites were generally
free of any significant residual contamination
HSI is one available evaluation tool for collecting information and designing an
assignment underthe broad objective of assessing, on a case-by-case basis, the
effectiveness of cleanup actions on land. OIG assignment timeframes, costs and
objectives must ultimately be factored in when deciding the most appropriate
evaluation methods.
Send all inquiries to our public
affairs office at (202) 566-2391 or
visit www.epa.gov/oiq.
The full report is at:
www.epa.aov/oia/reports/2014/
20140926-14-N-0360.pdf

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UNITED STATES ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20460
OFFICE OF
INSPECTOR GENERAL
September 26, 2014
MEMORANDUM
SUBJECT: Hyperspectral Imaging Can Be a Useful Evaluation Tool for Office of Inspector General
Reviews Focused on Contaminated Land
Report No. 14-N-0360
Attached is a report assessing the use of remote sensing technologies in U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) Office of Inspector General oversight of the effectiveness of EPA cleanup actions. This
report represents the culmination of work that the Office of Program Evaluation began in December
2007, in coordination with the U.S. Geological Survey. We made observations in determining whether
hyperspectral imaging data is a useful tool for assessing contamination and cleanup at Superfund,
Brownfields, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act Corrective Action, and Underground Storage
Tank sites.
We will post this report to our website at http://www.epa.gov/oig.
FROM: Carolyn Copper, Assistant Inspector General
Office of Program Evaluation
TO:
Charles Sheehan, Deputy Inspector General

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Hyperspectral Imaging Can Be a Useful Tool
for Office of Inspector General Reviews
Focused on Contaminated Land
14-N-0360
Table of C
Purpose		1
Background		1
Scope and Methodology		1
Results of Review		3
Conclusion		3
Appendices
A USGS Work Products as a Result of Interagency Agreement
With EPA OIG	 4
B Example of Hyperspectral Imagery	 5
C EPA OIG Distribution	 6

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Purpose
This report addresses whether hyperspectral imaging (HSI) is a useful tool for the
Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) to use in assessing contamination and cleanup at Superfund, Brownfields,
Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Corrective Action, and
Underground Storage Tank (UST) sites. Starting in December 2007, in
coordination with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), we have been assessing
the use of remote sensing technologies for OIG oversight of the effectiveness of
EPA cleanup actions.
Background
Hyperspectral imaging is a type of remote sensing technology that records
reflected and emitted electromagnetic energy in hundreds of very narrow
wavelengths. Data can be captured using an airborne sensor. The data can assist in
the identification and analysis of environmental conditions and certain
contaminants.
In 2007, the EPA OIG determined that the EPA had failed to detect hazardous
waste at the Ringwood, New Jersey, Superfund site, leading to the EPA's
insufficient characterization of contamination and, consequently, insufficient
cleanup at the site. The EPA OIG further concluded that the overlooked
contamination may have been detected sooner if the EPA had made greater use of
available aerial photographs.1 As a result of that work, the OIG initiated a series
of HSI research projects in December 2007 designed to test the use of HSI for
OIG oversight of the effectiveness of EPA cleanup actions.
Scope and Methodology
We began our work in December 2007, and received our final HSI analyses in
May 2014. This report evaluates the usefulness of HSI technology to identify
certain conditions at contaminated sites. The scope of work performed for this
report does not constitute an audit under generally accepted government auditing
standards.
Working with USGS, we conducted our HSI work in three phases which involve
different types of contaminated sites and different states. Each phase included the
collection and analysis of hyperspectral imagery, soil sampling and soil analysis.
The three phases encompassed a total of 40 sites in seven states, as shown in
Table 1. We visited Superfund, Brownfields, RCRA Corrective Action and UST
sites.
1 Limited Investigation Led to Missed Contamination at Ringwood Superfund Site, (Report No. 2007-P-00039,
September 25, 2007), http://www.epa.gov/oig/reports/2007/20070925-2007-P-00Q39.pdf.
14-N-0360
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Table 1: Sites sampled for HSI testing
Phase
Number of sites
Type of sites
States
1
5
Superfund
Maryland
Virginia
2
11*
Superfund
Pennsylvania


Brownfields (16)
Florida


RCRA Corrective Action (6)
South Carolina
3
24**
UST (2)
Louisiana


Texas
Source: OIG analysis.
* Soil samples were not taken at four sites because we did not visit the sites.
** Soil samples were not collected from three sites because the sites were paved over.
We reviewed site assessment and other site background documents and worked
with EPA, state officials and site owners to obtain site access. To obtain HSI data,
the USGS entered into an interagency agreement with the U.S. Air Force Civil
Air Patrol. For all sites visited we conducted an inspection of general site
conditions, and soil samples were collected at most sites in cooperation with
USGS. Whenever possible, we used a portable X-ray fluorescence unit to obtain a
field scan of the metal composition of the soil prior to taking each soil sample.
Soil samples were analyzed in the USGS laboratory for heavy metal
contamination and, in some cases, were also analyzed for asbestos. A subset of
these samples was sent to an independent laboratory for confirmatory testing by
Inductively Coupled Plasma analysis using EPA methods 3050 and 6010. The
Inductively Coupled Plasma results were compared to HSI to determine whether
there was any correlation between vegetation stress and high metals readings.
Since our work began in December 2007, we issued an early warning report to
EPA2 and we provided the EPA with early sampling results to give early notice of
possible issues at sites. Other reports are in progress.
Further, the USGS has issued four final reports and a draft report as a result of its
interagency agreement with the EPA OIG (see Appendix A).
2 Obsen'ed Conditions at Five Deleted Superfund Sites (Report No. ll-P-0433), August 3, 2011.
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Results of Review
Based upon the scope of the work performed and the sites OIG evaluated, remote
sensing technology can be useful to inform on the status of site conditions and
further detection of site anomalies. We determined that the current state of HSI
technology is useful in identifying vegetative stress related to the presence of
certain heavy metals. Three of the sites we sampled had areas that showed high
concentrations of arsenic and/or lead in the soil. Some of the same areas on the
hyperspectral images also showed vegetative stress. See Appendix B for an
example of a hyperspectral image.
We determined that HSI technology is useful in identifying debris, and for
screening out sites for further OIG work. HSI can also be useful during the
scoping phase of an evaluation to screen multiple sites and select a smaller, most
relevant sample of sites for on-site visits and further review. When the HSI
indicated little vegetative stress, our review found that the site was generally free
of any significant residual contamination. For example, HSI imagery showed little
indication of vegetative stress or anomalies at eight of the 11 sites tested and
visited in Pennsylvania. On-site observations confirmed that these sites were
generally free of significant residual debris that would be detected by the anomaly
detection routine used to process the hyperspectral images. Further, soil sample
results indicated that these sites contained low levels of metal concentrations that
were below the appropriate EPA risk-based screening levels. We believe this is an
indicator that HSI could be a cost-effective means to periodically screen sites
designated as 'cleaned-up' for new contamination or changed conditions.
In addition, the anomaly detection routine also reliably detected hard surface
debris left at the site, as well as other site anomalies, such as surface areas that are
different from the surrounding areas. For example, at one site in Virginia, HSI
identified anomalies that proved to be scrap auto bumpers, empty metal containers
and other materials. Thus, if HSI were collected for several sites, those that did
not have indications of vegetative stress or anomalies might be eliminated from
further review.
Conclusion
HSI is one evaluation tool that OIG staff have available when designing an
assignment under the broad objective of assessing, on a case-by-case basis, the
effectiveness of cleanup actions at contaminated, previously contaminated or
potentially contaminated sites, depending on timeframes, costs and assignment
objectives.
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Appendix A
USGS Work Products as a Result of
Interagency Agreement With EPA OIG
Slonecker, E.T., and Fisher, G.B. 2009. Research Implementation and Quality Assurance Project
Plan: An Evaluation of Hyperspectral Remote Sensing Technologies for the Detection of
Fugitive Contamination at Selected SuperfundHazardous Waste Sites. USGS Open-File Report
2009-1048, http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2009/1048/.
Slonecker, E.T., and Fisher, G.B. 2011. An Evaluation of Traditional and Emerging Remote Sensing
Technologies for the Detection of Fugitive Contamination at Selected Superfund Hazardous Waste
Sites. USGS Open-File Report 2011-1050, http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2011/1050/.
Slonecker, E.T., and Fisher, G.B. 2011. Graphic Products Used in the Evaluation of Traditional
and Emerging Remote Sensing Technologies for the Detection of Fugitive Contamination at
Selected Superfund Hazardous Waste Sites. USGS Open-File Report 2011-1068,
http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2011/1068/.
Slonecker, E.T., and Fisher, G.B. 2014. An Evaluation of Remote Sensing Technologies for the
Detection of Fugitive Contamination at Selected Superfund Hazardous Waste Sites in
Pennsylvania. USGS Open-File Report 2014-1081, http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/ofr20141081.
Slonecker, E.T., and Fisher, G.B. An Evaluation of Remote Sensing Technologies for the
Detection of Fugitive Contamination at Selected Sites under the EPA Cross-Program
Revitalization Measures Program. (In Progress - Draft Report)
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Appendix B
Example of Hyperspectral Imagery
100 Meters
100 Meters
Imagery Source ARCHER
0.3 Meter
NAD 1983UTM17N
Imagery Source: USGS National Map
0.3 Meter Orthoimage - Jan 02, 2012
NAD 1983 UTM17N
Hyperspectral Image Processing Results for the Clearwater Automotive Site, Clearwater, Florida.
Left: USGS color image with field sampling points. Right: Image showing the agricultural stress composite
index based on the hyperspectral imaging. In the stressed image, red and black indicate vegetative stress.
Black also indicates paved areas.
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EPA OIG Distribution
Inspector General
Deputy Inspector General
Counsel to the Inspector General
Chief of Staff, Office of Inspector General
Assistant Inspector General for Audit
Deputy Assistant Inspector General for Program Evaluation
Deputy Assistant Inspector General for Audit
Deputy Assistant Inspector General for Congressional and Public Affairs
14-N-0360

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