A Methodology to Evaluate Ecological Resources and Risk Using Two Case Studies at the Department of Energy’s Hanford Site
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- Burger, J., Gochfeld, M., Bunn, A. et al. Environmental Management (2017) 59: 357. doi:10.1007/s00267-016-0798-8
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An assessment of the potential risks to ecological resources from remediation activities or other perturbations should involve a quantitative evaluation of resources on the remediation site and in the surrounding environment. We developed a risk methodology to rapidly evaluate potential impact on ecological resources for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Hanford Site in southcentral Washington State. We describe the application of the risk evaluation for two case studies to illustrate its applicability. The ecological assessment involves examining previous sources of information for the site, defining different resource levels from 0 to 5. We also developed a risk rating scale from non-discernable to very high. Field assessment is the critical step to determine resource levels or to determine if current conditions are the same as previously evaluated. We provide a rapid assessment method for current ecological conditions that can be compared to previous site-specific data, or that can be used to assess resource value on other sites where ecological information is not generally available. The method is applicable to other Department of Energy’s sites, where its development may involve a range of state regulators, resource trustees, Tribes and other stakeholders. Achieving consistency across Department of Energy’s sites for valuation of ecological resources on remediation sites will assure Congress and the public that funds and personnel are being deployed appropriately.