Deborah A. Chiavelli, PhD

Technical Director



Sediment Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study/Pre-Design Investigation

Environmental Forensics – Sediment and Upland Contaminant Fingerprinting, Delineation, and Apportionment

Cost Allocation and Litigation Support for Remedial Action and Natural Resource Damages

Environmental Chemistry

Aquatic Ecology


PhD, Biology, Dartmouth College

MS, Biology, University of Mississippi

BS, Natural Resources, Cornell University

Deborah A. Chiavelli, PhD

Technical Director

Dr. Chiavelli has over eighteen years of experience in the investigation of complex contaminated sediment sites, including nature and extent, fate and transport, ecological and human health risk, feasibility studies, natural resource damages (NRD), forensic source investigation, liability apportionment, and liability litigation.


Dr. Chiavelli is an expert in environmental forensics, having led forensic source evaluations of chemical contamination at sediment, groundwater, soil, and vapor-contaminated sites throughout the United States and Canada. Her forensic source investigations have supported remedial investigation, remedial footprint negotiation, natural resource damage assessments, source apportionment, allocation, mediation, and litigation. She has taught continuing education environmental forensics courses for the Environmental Professionals of Connecticut (EPOC) and the Massachusetts Licensed Site Professionals (MA LSP) programs, with qualifying credit for Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York.

representative projects
  • Strategic and Technical Support, Industrial Client, Sediment CERCLA Site, New York. Leads an interdisciplinary team providing technical and strategic support to limit the client’s long-term liability at a major Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA, aka Superfund) Sediment Site. Responsibilities include strategic and technical review of work plans, reports, and agency communications; attendance of potentially responsible party (PRP)/regulatory agency meetings; participation in technical work groups; oversight of remedial cost allocation modeling and nexus report development; and tracking and advising on the interaction of PRPs, citizen groups, and regulatory agencies.  
  • Remedy Allocation and Natural Resource Damages Allocation, Sediment CERCLA Site, Utility Client. Supported client’s sediment cleanup liability allocation at a large urban river CERCLA site with dozens of PRPs. Authored 13 expert, rebuttal, and surrebuttal reports. Oversaw and developed the forensic technical allocation approach including fingerprinting analysis of thousands of environmental samples, contaminant fate and transport analysis, and review of operations and release records for dozens of facilities. Provided a resulting sediment remedy allocation for PAHs, PCBs, dioxins/furans, and pesticides for over 20 distinct cleanup areas by linking forensic results with three-dimensional contamination delineation and the record of decision (ROD) remedial technology designations to apportion sediment cleanup liability. Designed and managed forensic sampling events and collaborated with engineering teams to ensure upland and sediment sampling programs were consistent with allocation data quality objectives. Additionally, provided technical support to contest overallocation of NRD to the client: in coordination with legal counsel and during iterative communications with the NRD Trustees, demonstrated a robust, defensible forensic apportionment approach for the client’s liability. This resulted in a significantly reduced allocation to the client.
  • RI/FS Strategic and Technical Support, Utility Client, MGP Sediment Site, New York. Project manager and a technical lead for a supplemental remedial investigation and feasibility study in a lake sediment operable unit for a former manufactured gas plant (MGP) site in upstate New York. A lead for client and regulatory agency meetings, communications, and negotiations. Developed and managed a sediment quality triad benthic risk assessment, including work plan development, field work management, and benthic risk analysis. Managed remedial investigation (RI) report and feasibility study (FS) report development.
  • Residual Oil Quantification, Urban River Crude Oil Spill, Energy Client, Michigan. Project manager and technical lead in a chemical forensic quantification of residual crude oil in a 40-mile stretch of river sediments several years after a large pipeline spill became entrained in the river. Oversaw forensic analysis of PAHs and petroleum biomarkers in thousands of sediment samples. Developed a multi-ratio concentration-based mixing model that accounted for varying background concentrations and heterogeneous legacy contamination while distinguishing and quantifying weathered residual spill oil mass in sediments. Statistically aggregated residual spill oil mass results for distinct geomorphological river regions to quantify whole river residual oil mass. In response to this work, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a revised residual oil estimate 50% lower than their initial estimate.
  • Upland Petroleum Hydrocarbon Release Investigations. Conducted numerous environmental forensic investigations of released products including gasoline, diesel, heavy oils, crude oil, MGP tar, commercial coal tar products, and creosote. Combined fingerprinting analysis of groundwater, soil, and non-aqueous phase liquid (NAPL) with geological and other lines of evidence to delineate impacts, distinguish comingled impacts, and evaluate timing of release. Depending on the site, the work has been applied to support conceptual site model development, responsible party footprint delineation, and contaminant source apportionment and allocation, including mediation and litigation support.
  • PCB Contamination Litigation, Urban Waterway, Industrial Client, Massachusetts. Conducted PCB congener fingerprinting in support of remedial cost recovery litigation. Developed innovative, site-specific forensic diagnostic indicators to separate multiple weathered forms of the client’s released PCBs from numerous other PCB sources. Assisted with expert and rebuttal report preparation, preparation for deposition of experts, and development of trial demonstratives. The jury decision reduced the client’s liability by 15%.
  • Indoor Air Fingerprinting, Residential Site, Utility Client, New York. Provided forensic analysis for an indoor air monitoring program to evaluate volatile organic hydrocarbons detected in residential buildings situated over legacy subterranean MGP-sourced contamination. Diagnostic ratios specifically developed for the Site demonstrated that the indoor air composition was inconsistent with vapor origination from MGP hydrocarbons.
  • Quadrini, J.D., W. Ku, J.P. Connolly, D.A. Chiavelli, and P.H. Israelsson, 2015. “Fingerprinting 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzodioxin Contamination Within the Lower Passaic River.” Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 34(7):1485–1498.

  • Byard, J.L., S.C. Paulsen, R.S. Tjeerdema, and D. Chiavelli, 2014. “DDT, Chlordane, Toxaphene and PCB Residues in Newport Bay and Watershed: Assessment of Hazard to Wildlife and Human Health.” Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 235:49–168.

  • CIESM 2004. “Executive Summary.” In Novel Chemical Contaminants and Pathogens in Coastal Waters. Editor, N.S. Fisher; Chiavelli one of 13 authors. CIESM Workshop Monograph No. 26, 2004.

  • Chiavelli, D.A., K.L. Cottingham, and R.K. Taylor, 2004. “Linking the Ecology, Epidemiology and Pathogenicity of Vibrio cholerae: A Molecular Genetic Approach.” Novel Chemical Contaminants and Pathogens in Coastal Waters. Editor, N.S. Fisher. CIESM Workshop Monograph No. 26.

  • Cottingham, K.L., D.A. Chiavelli, and R.K. Taylor, 2003. “Environmental Microbe and Human Pathogen: The Ecology and Microbiology of Vibrio cholerae.” Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 1(2):80–86.

  • Threlkeld, S.T., D.A. Chiavelli, and R.L. Willey, 1993. “The Organization of Zooplankton Epibiont Communities.” Trends in Ecology and Evolution 8(9): 317-321.

  • Chiavelli, D.A., E.L. Mills, and S.T. Threlkeld. 1993. “Host preference, seasonality, and community interactions of zooplankton epibionts.” Limnology and Oceanography 38(3): 574-583.