Environmental agencies are constantly reassessing regulatory decisions. These decisions aren’t made lightly. In fact, they are invariably accompanied by staggeringly large stacks of data. Environmental risk assessments, or ERAs, help feed this data. ERAs involve a highly regulated site evaluation process, which often drives certain remedial actions. Read on to find out more about environmental risk assessment basics.
Environmental Risk Assessment Basics
What Is an Environmental Risk Assessment?
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) describes environmental risk assessments (ERAs) as “a process for evaluating how likely it is that the environment may be impacted as a result of exposure to one or more environmental stressors, such as chemicals, disease, invasive species, and climate change.” In other words, these assessments are used to characterize a certain site’s risk to human and environmental health. From there, assessors can make recommendations for remediation.
When Are Assessments Required?
Think of a waterway that has been compromised by an oil spill. An ERA would assess specific chemical contaminants in the waterway, attempting to determine how harmful these chemicals could be to humans, wildlife, and the surrounding environment. ERAs also apply to areas compromised by industrial waste, disease-causing microbial agents, and other contaminants. Finally, sites requiring ERAs typically consider two categories: (1) human health assessments and (2) ecological assessments. ERAs are often preceded by a site characterization. This characterization process determines the physical extent of the contaminants in the air, soil, and water at the site.
Factors in Environmental Risk Assessments
An environmental risk assessment is a scientific process that generally depends on the following factors:
- Quantity: How much of a stressor is present in an environmental medium (soil, water, air), and over what geographic area. This helps assessors determine the severity of the contamination incident.
- Exposure: How much contact a person or ecological receptor (soil, etc.) has with the contaminant, which determines the urgency of remediation. For example, a disease-causing microbial agent may be limited to a very small region of affected soil which may impact a smaller number of vulnerable receptors.
- Severity: How the contaminant affects the health of humans or ecological receptors. This final factor spans a variety of potentially vulnerable populations, including human residents or recreational visitors to a site, plants, birds, aquatic life, and other nearby wildlife.
Our Assessment Services
Risk assessments require precision. Without a reliable and complete understanding of the extent of contamination, the consequences could be disastrous. Fortunately, Environmental Works is well-versed in the properties of potentially harmful chemicals, microbes, and other agents. EWI is experienced in providing environmental risk assessment services in the following areas:
- Risk assessment strategy development and review
- Comprehensive multi-pathway risk assessments
- Probabilistic exposure assessments
- Screening-level risk evaluations
- Derivation of risk-based cleanup levels
- Calculation of site-specific cleanup target levels
- Toxicity assessments and data evaluation
- Research to address sources of uncertainty
Ultimately, an effective ERA requires institutional expertise that only organizations like Environmental Works can provide.
Are you in need of an environmental consultant for your risk assessment? When you’re ready, you can contact EWI online or call 877-827-9500 for more information. You can also email our remediation team at firstname.lastname@example.org, and someone will get back to you shortly. We have in-house experts ready to help walk you through the specifics of your organization’s planning and compliance needs. Our team can also work with you to develop an ongoing plan for your business to ensure ongoing environmental responsibility.