SitePro database aids agency in cleanup of wetlands

The Fish and Wildlife Service is using information technology to bring paradise to a
polluted California coastal wetland.

The agency is using a database of scientific measurements taken from the Bolsa Chica
Lowlands over the years to create a cleanup plan for the 880-acre site. The Southern
California coastal marsh is home to endangered plants and animals.

The site is also one of the most poked and prodded protected areas in the nation.
Geologists, surveyors and environmental officials have been measuring, photographing and
sampling the site for years, but most of the paper records were stored in far-flung sites.

"The restoration of the Bolsa Chica Wetlands is a complex undertaking that will
require years to complete," said Mickey Rivera, FWS environmental contaminants
specialist. "The cornerstone of every successful wetlands restoration is a thorough
understanding of the existing chemical, biological and hydrological conditions at the

FWS is using SitePro from Environmental Software Corp. of Huntington Beach, Calif., to
write the ecological risk assessment phase of the project.

Using SitePro, the service created a database of all the information collected about
the site, including data on topography, land mass, soil and groundwater samples, surface
water samples, aerial and ground photos, and land-use records.

The data helps project team leaders analyze and assess related data and provides basic
mapping, reporting and graphing functions about the site, Rivera said.

The wetlands has been polluted for years, and scientists need all the data that has
been previously collected if they are going to make accurate plans for its restoration,
FWS officials said. Chemical runoff and stormwater drainage from the urban area
surrounding it has flowed into the wetlands for 20 years. The area is also home to 430 oil
wells, some of which still work.

"Building that necessary understanding of the complex Bolsa Chica site will
require a multidisciplined team of engineers and scientists equipped with advanced
technology and tools," Rivera said.

The SitePro software runs under Microsoft Windows 95 on PCs with at least 24M of RAM.
Data can be input into the system by diskette or, for maps and other large data files, by
CD-ROM. The application can also be networked to a central server.

"The success of the Bolsa Chica restoration relies on the ability of many
environmental professionals—biologists, geologists, toxicologists, chemists and
engineers—to develop an interdisciplinary understanding of the complex conditions and
processes of the site," said Dr. Harry Ohlendorf, biologist and project manager.

When the team sees the data in perspective, it can evaluate the areas that are
hazardous to plants or animals as a result of chemicals and determine what the cleanup
criteria should be, Ohlendorf said. "SitePro will allow us to generate comprehensive
accurate reports in minutes."

New data such as photographs can be added in all standard digital formats.

"SitePro allows the project team to capture and utilize many years’ worth of
valuable information concerning the site that was previously inaccessible," said
Susan Perrell, vice president of marketing for Environmental Software. "This resource
will allow the project team to quickly identify gaps in the data and determine which areas
are critical to sample in more detail."

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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