Using Site-Specific Risk Assessment

Using Site-Specific Risk Assessment

JANUARY 23, 2013

Chemical products are all around us – in our furnishings, personal care products, foods and other items we come into contact with every day. Often, these chemical products may be released to the environment in an uncontrolled way, impacting soil, water and air resources. Whether these products are harmful once released must be determined through the application of science. That application is accomplished through risk assessment.

Risk assessment is a tool that supplies information about risks to human health or ecological receptors. It helps us understand the dangers of identified contaminants. We use it to direct remediation or to demonstrate that no cleanup is needed. Accurate site-specific risk assessment relies on identifying hazards, defining site boundaries, understanding current and future use, and balancing the needs of various stakeholders.

There are several key questions that change the variables in any risk assessment:

  • Who is exposed to hazards? Workers? Children? Future occupants?
  • What are they exposed to and at what concentration? Are there toxic effects?
  • When does exposure occur? Now? Later?
  • Where is the exposure point?
  • Why is the hazard being assessed?
  • How does the exposure occur and how often? What is within your control and influence?

Answering these questions will guide a cost-benefit and risk-benefit analysis and influence plans to manage, reduce, or eliminate exposure to hazards.

In one recent case, Woodard & Curran assessed contamination at a former lead mill. The risk characterization included evaluation of recreational and residential uses as well as the proposed redevelopment of a large, vacant parcel of land. Because the site extended into marine habitats, an ecological evaluation was performed to better quantify impacts to ecological receptors. Based on the presence of potential risk to construction workers, residents, and marine species, we developed a cost-effective remedial strategy to integrate risk-reduction measures. Risk assessment continues to be an essential tool in the restoration of contaminated sites. It will help all stakeholders involved, whether they are land owners, residents, or regulators, evaluate a viable and healthy path forward.


Technical Practice Leader
Risk & Emerging Contaminants

View All Posts

Enter your email address below for industry news and updates about Woodard & Curran.