SETAC Globe - Environmental Quality Through Science
  7 November 2013
Volume 14 Issue 11

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What Works and Why? A Solution-Focused Risk Assessment Session Sponsored by the Global Ecological Risk Assessment Advisory Group

John Toll, Windward Environmental LLC, Marc Greenberg, United States Environmental Protection Agency and Steve Brown, The Dow Chemical Company

If you plan on being at the SETAC North America 34th Annual Meeting in Nashville, Tenn., then please join us at 8:00 a.m. on Wednesday, 20 November, in room Jackson EF for the platform session "What Works and Why?" This session follows in the footsteps of the 2011 session "Evaluating Human Health and Ecological Risk Assessments and Remediation Decisions: Is the Cure Worse than the Disease" and the 2012 session "21st Century Environmental Risk Assessment." As with its predecessors, the session is motivated by the widely held view that environmental risk management decisions – particularly site-specific environmental risk management decisions for large “mega” sites – tend to take too long and cost too much.  Moreover, the people responsible for implementing environmental risk management decisions often lament lost opportunities to achieve real and lasting environmental benefits, including remediation, ecosystem restoration and urban revitalization. Hard work and goodwill squandered go hand-in-hand with opportunities lost.

The purpose of "What Works and Why?" is not to dwell on these problems but to accelerate progress toward a new status quo where environmental risk management projects are routinely expected to create real and lasting value that outweighs direct and indirect project costs.  We hope to help by convening professionals working on the front lines of environmental risk management projects to discuss experiences that are the exception to the rule and learn from their success.

Take a look at the program; we have a great line-up of speakers and poster presentations (WP095-WP101).  Here's the line-up for the platform session: 

  • Harry Ohlendorf will lead off with a talk about the successful effort to assess and manage selenium-induced severe reproductive impairment in aquatic-dependent birds feeding and nesting at Kesterson Reservoir in the San Joaquin Valley of California.
  • Mark Bowers will follow with a presentation about the successful effort to forge a multi-faceted, voluntary remedial effort employing adaptive management in Tennessee's Copper Basin, a historical center of extensive copper mining and allied chemical production activities.
  • Chris Mebane will share his personal perspective, shaped over 20 years and through work with four employers, on “what went right and why” at Idaho's Blackbird Mine, identifying several factors that influenced successful outcomes to date at this Superfund site.
  • Sam Luoma, the winner of the 2013 SETAC Founders Award, will close out the first half of the session with our third and final mining success story. Richards Bay Minerals has been mining and smelting minerals sands from the coastal dunes on the east coast of South Africa for 36 years. Thirty years ago, the company committed to a program of ecosystem restoration as mining moved through the dunes. We will learn about the benefits of a long-term corporate commitment to risk management in collaboration with long-term, independent scientific study; and the equal importance to sustainable restoration of understanding ecological processes and sociological challenges.
  • Ryan Davis will kick-off the second half of the session with a talk about successful efforts to preserve one of the few remaining forested wetlands contiguous to Onondaga Lake in upstate New York, while remediating soils and sediments historically impacted by upstream industrial activities.
  • Chris Crockett, Deputy Commissioner of the Planning & Environmental Services Division at the Philadelphia Water Department and the first recipient of the SETAC North America Science Committee's Coordinated Science Theme travel award, will talk about City of Philadelphia's one-of-a-kind national model program to incorporate green stormwater infrastructure into the fabric of urban life.
  • Tim Dekker will follow Crockett by describing the outcomes of several urban design competitions conducted across North America over the last 5 years in which waterways were the focus of a revitalized urban setting. These projects address legacy contamination issues by assigning their importance as secondary to the value created by the broader development goals of the projects.
  • Amy Mucha will close out the platform session with a presentation about how the cost-sharing and innovative approach under the Great Lakes Legacy Act can accelerate sediment remediation projects, using Sheboygan, Wisconsin, as an example. Remediation efforts at Sheboygan highlight how a voluntary, cost-sharing program created an expedited path to implementation that achieved substantial environmental results.

We have asked the speakers to talk about successful projects, focusing on what they sought to achieve; hurdles that had to be overcome; key(s) to the projects’ success (e.g., strong leadership, savvy technical experts, regulators’ willingness to consider unconventional solutions, responsible party interest in expeditiously addressing the environmental problem, effective stakeholder engagement, etc.); and project outcomes regarding risk reduction, environmental enhancement, and social and community benefits. They have also been asked to give at least one piece of practical advice for other practitioners, so if you stick with us all morning, you'll leave with at least eight pieces of practical advice!

Also, we welcome you to join us at the Global Ecological Risk Assessment Advisory Group open meeting at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, 20 November, in room Washington B, where we will be recording a synopsis, debrief and open discussion of "What Works and Why?"  The recording will be available for viewing on the SETAC Live Learning Center after the Nashville meeting.

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