COS 11-5 - Using final ecosystem goods and services to enhance societal relevance of contaminated-site remediation

Monday, August 7, 2017: 2:50 PM
B112, Oregon Convention Center
James T. Markwiese, ORD Western Ecology Division, US EPA, Corvallis, OR, Mark G. Johnson, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Corvallis, OR and Dixon Landers, US EPA
Background/Question/Methods Exposure to environmental stressors can adversely affect both human health and ecological receptors. Risk assessment guidance promotes conceptual site models to integrate multiple stressors and receptors but given the diversity of species, ecological communities and ecological functions, challenges exist which can ultimately compromise the societal relevance of decisions stemming from the assessment. Decisions for protecting the environment are more effective when benefits to humans are considered and federal agencies have been directed to incorporate ecosystem services into the federal decision-making process. Recent advances in risk assessment address this directive by incorporating ecosystem services as assessment endpoints in a way that is meaningful to people. To further this research, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Research and Development (EPA ORD) has also released the Final Ecosystem Goods and Services - Classification System (FEGS-CS) which systematically defines components of nature directly enjoyed, consumed or used to yield human well-being. Given the enormous range of EPA’s environmental decision-making under consideration, we focus on contaminated sites where clean‐up strategies are traditionally geared more towards removal and confinement of hazardous conditions, and less towards the site’s future ecosystem benefits.

Results/Conclusions We are applying the FEGS-CS approach to the restoration of a Superfund mining site in southwestern Oregon. The remediation involves application of biochar as a soil amendment to increase soil quality (e.g., increased carbon content), sequester heavy metals and retain water to support the regenerative growth of native plant cover. We have established the historic and current conditions at the site and, with the assistance of Region 10, OLEM and the local community, have developed specific restoration goals as defined by the potential Final Ecosystem Goods and Services based on Environmental Classes and sub-Classes present at the site. These goals are being used to inform the planned Superfund actions associated with restoration at this site, assist project managers with understanding how site operations affect ecosystem services, provide insight on how the FEGS-CS could enhance decision making that may not have been considered in the original ecological risk assessment and measurement endpoint determination, and result in an approach based on the FEGS framework that can be applied at other sites. This research builds on existing collaborations between EPA ORD, Program Offices and the Regions, and contributes to the incorporation of ecosystem services at remediation projects. This work also serves as a much-needed case study demonstrating how to approach quantification of ecosystem services to improve risk-based decision-making.