A Brigham Young University professor has developed a computer mapping system to deal with hazardous waste spills that contaminate soils near military bases.

A computer system designed by Norman L. Jones, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, will allow federal agencies to effectively map hazardous materials by developing computer codes to simulate how groundwater and contaminates interact and spread over time.The program will allow the Department of Defense to make quicker judgments and better decisions on how to clean up such sites, many of which contain spilled jet fuel and weapons byproducts.

Jones said the new system was needed to replace an outdated system that combined five to six computer programs, took a substantial amount of time to map, cost the government more than was needed and was largely inaccurate in its mapping of hazardous fuels.

The outdated program left the government's effort to clean up more than 10,000 hazardous waste sites across the nation lagging. Among them are sites at Utah's Tooele Army Depot and Hill Air Force Base, Jones said.

"This program was created to be the state-of-the-art in simulating groundwater flow," Jones said. "Whenever you undertake the job of modeling the groundwater, you have to work with geometry, very sparse data and very complex shapes. The input requirements differ greatly from one cleanup site to the next.

Jeffrey P. Holland, program director at the Waterways Experiment Station in Vicksburg, Miss., and director of the multi-year research effort, said the program took seven years to create and could end up saving the government 5 to 20 percent of the modeling costs.

Holland says that with 10,000 sites estimated to cost $45 billion to clean up, the savings will be significant.