Overview of the Remedial Action Priority System (RAPS)

  • G. Whelan
  • B. L. Steelman
  • D. L. Strenge
  • J. G. Droppo

Abstract

All environmental regulations are intended to minimize the risks to man and his environment resulting from a regulated activity. Because lower risk levels are generally accompanied by higher environmental control costs, optimum management is achieved by balancing risks and costs. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) currently employs the Hazard Ranking System (HRS) to preliminarily assess inactive hazardous waste disposal sites for potential placement on the National Priorities List. Recently, modifications to HRS have been proposed to more realistically assess the risks posed by radioactive waste constituents. These modifications significantly increase the applicability of the HRS to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) hazardous waste disposal sites.

Although results from applying the modified HRS will be useful for comparing ranking scores of DOE sites to non-DOE sites, the methodology is still overly subjective to quantitatively prioritize one site relative to another site. To provide DOE with a better management tool for prioritizing funding allocations for further site investigations and possible remediations, Pacific Northwest Laboratory developed a more objective, physics-based risk assessment methodology called the Remedial Action Priority System (RAPS). This methodology uses empirically, analytically, and semianalytically based mathematical algorithms and a pathways analysis to predict the potential for contaminant transport from a hazardous waste disposal site to local populations. Four major pathways for contaminant migration are considered in the RAPS methodology: groundwater, overland, surface water, and atmospheric. Using the predications of contaminant transport, simplified exposure assessments are performed for important receptors. The risks associated with the sites can then be calculated relative to other sites for each pathway and for all pathways together.

The RAPS methodology addresses many of the typical limitations associated with other ranking systems; it considers: 1) more site information and constituent characteristics associated with the transport pathways; 2) chemical and radioactive wastes; 3) the potential direction of contaminant movement; 4) contaminant retention (e.g., dispersion and decay/degradation), where applicable; 5) population distributions; 6) various routes of exposure (e.g., inhalations, ingestion, and external exposure); 7) contaminant toxicities; 8) duration of exposure of the surrounding population; and 9) contaminant arrival time to sensitive receptors. Because RAPS is based on more site information and constituent characteristics, the scoring system of the RAPS methodology also reduces the subjectivity associated with prioritizing hazardous waste sites.

The RAPS methodology requires minimum user knowledge of risk assessment and a minimum amount of input data. To maximize the utility of the system within DOE and its field offices, RAPS is being designed to operate on a personal computer.

Keywords

Clay Porosity Migration Toxicity Attenuation 

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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. Whelan
    • 1
  • B. L. Steelman
    • 1
  • D. L. Strenge
    • 1
  • J. G. Droppo
    • 1
  1. 1.Pacific Northwest LaboratoryRichlandUSA

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