Environmental Management

, Volume 59, Issue 3, pp 357–372 | Cite as

A Methodology to Evaluate Ecological Resources and Risk Using Two Case Studies at the Department of Energy’s Hanford Site

  • Joanna BurgerEmail author
  • Michael Gochfeld
  • Amoret Bunn
  • Janelle Downs
  • Christian Jeitner
  • Taryn Pittfield
  • Jennifer Salisbury
  • David Kosson


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.


Risk evaluation Ecological resources Remediation Risk methodology Risk rating Assessment method 



The authors acknowledge other members of CRESP and PNNL for valuable discussions about risk, exposure assessments, and ecological evaluations, including J. Clarke, E. Golovich, K Hand, W. Johnson, K. Brown, and M. Chamness. This research was funded by the Consortium for Risk Evaluation through the Department of Energy (DE-FC01-95EW55084). PNNL’s funding was provided by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of River Protection and Richland Operations Office. PNNL is operated by Battelle Memorial Institute for the U.S. Department of Energy under Contract DE-AC05-76RL01830.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joanna Burger
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Michael Gochfeld
    • 2
    • 3
  • Amoret Bunn
    • 4
  • Janelle Downs
    • 4
  • Christian Jeitner
    • 1
    • 2
  • Taryn Pittfield
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jennifer Salisbury
    • 2
  • David Kosson
    • 2
  1. 1.Division of Life SciencesRutgers UniversityPiscatawayUSA
  2. 2.Consortium for Risk Evaluation with Stakeholder Participation (CRESP)Vanderbilt UniversityNashvilleUSA
  3. 3.Rutgers, robert Wood Johnson Medical SchoolPiscatawayUSA
  4. 4.Pacific Northwest National LaboratoryRichlandUSA

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