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A framework for increasing sustainability and reducing risk to ecological resources through integration of remediation planning and implementation

Burger, Joanna
Environmental research 2019 v.172 pp. 586-595
brownfields, decision making, education, human resources, humans, indicator species, industrial sites, land use, planning, polluted soils, radionuclides, remediation, risk, risk reduction, stakeholders, toxic substances, United States
Remediation of lands contaminated with radionuclides and hazardous chemicals provides an ongoing challenge for many countries. It is particularly problematic for remediation of old industrial sites remaining from World War II and the Cold War. Remediating and restoring large sites is often costly, time-consuming, and involves complex planning and sequencing, as well as consideration of future land use policies. The goal of remediation is to reduce contamination, reduce risk to humans and the environment, and restore land to productive land uses, and ultimately, to sustainability. Often reducing risk to people takes precedence over protecting ecological resources in overall planning, characterization, and execution of remediation strategies. This paper examines when and how stakeholders, including anyone interested and affected by remediation on ecological resources, can become involved in the planning, decision-making, and implementation of remediation. There is a formal process under federal law (e.g. CERCLA) in the US for examining risk to resources, including indicator species. However, there are other informal points during the cleanup process when managers should consider the value of ecological resources, the public may express their concerns for particular ecological resources, and ecologists may provide data and expert advice early in the process as critical decisions are being made about remediation that impact ecological resources. The framework presented in this paper for increasing sustainability of ecological resources has three periods of intervention 1) major decision points, 2) process interdiction points, and 3) remediation action points. Major decision points include site and problem identification, regional ecological resource and local land use practice determination, remediation goals and options determination, and other local issues. Interdiction points include examining remediation options, and in-depth assessments of ecological resources on-site. Remediation action points are aimed at reducing risk to ecological resources during remediation, and include defining the remediation site and buffer, understanding the effects of timing and sequencing of remediation, education of all remediation personnel, and specific suggestions for reducing risk during active remediation. While this framework was developed for Department of Energy remediation sites, it is applicable to brownfields and other contaminated lands world-wide. The overall goal is to provide interested and affected parties with a framework for protecting and enhancing ecological resources during the planning and execution of remediation on contaminated lands.