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2.4.7 Site reconnaissance

The objective of the site reconnaissance or site visit is to gather sufficient information to support a decision regarding further action. Reconnaissance activity is not a risk assessment, or a scoping survey, or a study of the full extent of contamination at a facility or site. The reconnaissance offers an opportunity to record information concerning hazardous site conditions as they apply to conducting future survey work. In this regard, information describing physical hazards, structural integrity of buildings, or other conditions, defines potential problems that may impede future work. This section is most applicable to sites with less available information and may not be necessary at other sites having greater amounts of data, such as licensed facilities.

To prepare for the site reconnaissance, begin by reviewing what is known about the facility or site and identify data gaps. Given the site-specific conditions, consider whether or not a site reconnaissance is necessary and practical. This type of effort may be deemed necessary if a site is abandoned, not easily observed from areas of public access, or discloses little information during file searches. These same circumstances may also make a site reconnaissance risky for health and safety reasons – in view of the many unknowns – and may make entry difficult. This investigative step may be practical, but less critical, for active facilities whose operators grant access and provide requested information. Remember to arrange for proper site access and prepare an appropriate health and safety plan, if required, before initiating the site reconnaissance.

Investigators should acquire signed consent forms from the site or equipment owner to gain access to the property to conduct the reconnaissance. Investigators are to determine if Governmental or local officials, and local individuals, should be notified of the reconnaissance schedule (stakeholder involvement). If needed, local officials should arrange for public notification.

It is advised to prepare a study plan before the site reconnaissance to anticipate every reconnaissance activity and identify specific information to be gathered. This plan should incorporate a survey of the site’s surroundings and provide details for activities that verify or identify the location of: nearby residents, worker populations, drinking water or irrigation wells, foods, and other site environs information.

Preparing for the site reconnaissance includes initially gathering necessary materials and equipment. This may include a camera to document site conditions, health and safety monitoring instruments including a radiation detection meter for use during the site visit, and extra copies of topographic maps to mark target locations, water distribution areas, and other important site features. A logbook is critical to keeping a record of field activities and observations as they occur. For documentation purposes EURSSEM recommends that the logbook should be completed in waterproof ink, preferably by one individual. Furthermore, each page of the logbook should be signed and dated, including the time of day, after the last entry on the page. Corrections should be documented and approved.