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ENVIRO-NEWS  November 2002

ENVIRO-NEWS November 2002

Subject:

Information from the EPA National Risk Management Research Labora tory (NRMRL)

From:

Joe Makuch <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Joe Makuch <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 7 Nov 2002 13:20:04 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (222 lines)

-----Original Message-----
From: [log in to unmask]
[mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Thursday, November 07, 2002 12:48 PM
To: nrmrl
[deletions]
Welcome to this summary of research activities, new publications, and
upcoming meetings, a monthly service provided to you by the National Risk
Management Research Laboratory (NRMRL). NRMRL is part of the Office of
Research and Development of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA). This report also may be viewed at the following Internet address:
http://www.epa.gov/ORD/NRMRL/whatsnew.htm

NRMRL News   November 2002

Editorial

"Sometimes it is best to move ahead
even as the science and technology
. . . continue to be refined."
        E. Timothy Oppelt, Director
        National Risk Management Research Laboratory

  In the last 30 years tremendous progress has been made in addressing the
nation's worst and most visible environmental problems.  Important gains
have been made in protecting public health and the environment through
major investments in environmental and institutional infrastructure,
regulations and standards, and in the scientific and technological
advancements that provide the foundations for these actions. But, as the
science and practice of environmental protection has advanced, the
complexity and interconnectedness of the remaining environmental problems
and their solutions have become even greater than we once believed.  This
presents a more scientifically complex challenge.  We now realize more
than ever that the solutions to these problems will require more
multi-media, multi-disciplinary approaches sustained by a foundation of
sound scientific and technological information, innovation and careful
analysis.

  As the complexity and potential economic implications of environmental
protection measures have increased in recent years, many have chosen to
frame debates solely in terms of the limitations of science that supports
these decisions.  For opponents of proposed actions, scientific
uncertainty and the interpretation of existing science are often used to
provide a cloak of objectivity and factuality to what are, in reality,
policy and economic disagreements.  For others, this same uncertainty is
offered to argue for action, or even over-reaction, in the face of a lack
of public consensus.  How do we, as the scientific and engineering
community, contribute to reconciling these differing perspectives?
Several observations may be helpful.

  First, we need to remember that, as important as sound scientific
understanding is, it is not, and cannot be, the sole basis of
environmental policy and action.  Stated another way, it is necessary that
environmental decisions be informed by the best possible scientific
information and analysis available, but many other factors must be
considered,  including implementability, enforceability, disproportionate
socio-economic impacts, and, ultimately, what the public is willing to
accept as the level of risk.

  It is also important to understand the limitations of science as a guide
for public policy.  Rarely can science provide the definitive answer to
complex questions such as those we face in the environment, at least in
the time frame often demanded.  Ethical scientists avoid the temptations
of going "beyond the data" or neglecting to warn of the inherent
uncertainty in their conclusions when pressed by others for answers to
scientifically complex questions.  As a result, decision makers and those
impacted by environmental protection actions are often disappointed when
they turn to scientists and engineers for simple yes/no answers, the
absolute risk number, the perfect technology, etc.

  Finally, it is axiomatic that virtually all environmental protection
decisions will involve making calls in the face of some level of
scientific uncertainty over the level, cost or benefit of the proposed
action.  However, policy makers need to avoid the pitfall of a default to
inaction in the face of these uncertainties.  There are many examples of
actions that were taken, or need to be taken now, to address environmental
problems, even when many would wait for more perfect or complete
information.  The current debates over control of PM 2.5 (particulate
matter under 2.5 micrometers in diameter) or greenhouse gases are timely
examples.  Arguably, the nation's progress in reducing acid rain
represents a trajectory of necessary action delayed by calls to first
reduce what proved to be marginal scientific uncertainties.  Sometimes, it
is best to move ahead even as the science and technology components of the
decision continue to be refined.

  What then is the role for science and the scientific community within
EPA?  Sound science has remained at the center of EPA's mission and policy
deliberations under Administrator Christine Todd Whitman.  In fact, the
role of science in EPA decision making has been strengthened through a
number of recent actions.  Scientists will be involved up front in
determining needed research and analysis, identifying alternatives and
selecting options for major EPA rulemakings.  All regulatory packages will
include plain language discussion of the uncertainties in the scientific
analyses and how they affect the decision.  In order to further ensure
that science has a more prominent role in EPA decision making, Dr. Paul
Gilman, Assistant Administrator for Research and Development, has been
designated as EPA Science Advisor, with responsibility to consult with
regulatory offices across EPA, review analyses and advise the
Administrator on the quality of science that supports Agency decisions.
The National Research Council also provided a number of recommendations on
ways to strengthen science at EPA in its report to the Agency in 2000.
EPA has already acted upon many of those recommendations, including
maintaining a high priority on its graduate fellowship and post- doctoral
programs, seeking greater flexibility in recruiting and retaining
outstanding scientists and engineers, seeking continuity and transparency
in its science planning, and preserving a balance between its core and
problem-driven research.

  Sound scientific and technological information is a critical factor in
setting and implementing environmental protection actions, but only one of
a number of elements that contribute to a final decision.  Developing or
identifying the best possible information is at the center of EPA's
mission and deliberations on environmental policies.

  This editorial appeared in Environmental Progress, Vol. 21, No. 3, Page
2. 2002 NRMRL Director E. Timothy Oppelt received his B.S. degree in Civil
Engineering, an M.S. degree in Sanitary Engineering from Cornell
University, and an MBA degree from Xavier University (Cincinnati). In
1998, he received the Presidential Distinguished Rank Award for his
sustained exceptional accomplishments in support of environmental
protection.


CADDIS-A Decision-Support System for Managing Freshwater Stressors

The caddisfly and fellow invertebrates like the mayfly are ecological
indicators of the quality of freshwater streams.  Where a stream runs
clear, cool and uncontaminated by pollutants, a rich diversity of
caddisflies and similar organisms will be present.  These, in turn,
attract trout, salmon, herons, and kingfishers.  Biologists, therefore,
can monitor the overall health of freshwater streams by the variety of
caddisflies and friends near the bottom of the food chain.  Thus, it seems
appropriate that a newly emerging EPA decision-support system for
evaluating the impact of stressors on water bodies should be named
CADDIS-for  Causal Analysis/Diagnosis Decision Information System.

At a CADDIS Workshop, held recently in Deer Creek, Ohio, EPA and
state-level representatives met to discuss how a proposed CADDIS system
could help water resource investigators evaluate causes of impairments to
freshwater aquatic systems.  They focused their discussions on the EPA
Stressor Identification Guidance Document (EPA/822/B-00/025, published in
December 2000). The Stressor Identification guidelines are designed to
help investigators critically review available information, form causal
scenarios that might explain aquatic impairments, analyze the scenarios,
and reach conclusions about which stressors are causing the impairments.
CADDIS workshop participants explored the research and decision-support
needs of real world situations in case studies of  the Little Scioto River
in north-central Ohio, and the Cabin John Creek Watershed in Montgomery
County, Maryland.  They also evaluated the broad needs of potential users
of the CADDIS system, including software and database options. A workshop
report, now in progress, will be used to develop a strategic plan for the
CADDIS system.  CADDIS is expected to be useful to state, tribal, federal
and other water resource managers in identifying the causes of waterbody
impairments with greater certainty.  This, in turn, should result in
more-effective mitigation and management decisions and in better targeting
of limited water quality management resources.   (Contact:  Scott
Minamyer, NRMRL CADDIS Development Team Representative at 513-569-7175 or
[log in to unmask])


NRMRL Seminars

NRMRL is sponsoring three seminars on the potential for intrusion of toxic
and hazardous chemical vapors from soil and groundwater into indoor air.
The seminars will introduce new EPA guidance and provide
state-of-the-science information about important technical issues aimed to
regulators and decision makers from federal, state and local governments,
as well as interested parties from academia and the private sector.  Here
are dates and locations:

        * December 3-4, 2002    San Francisco, California
        * January 14-15, 2003   Dallas, Texas
        * February 25-26, 2003  Atlanta, Georgia

Attendance is limited.  Please visit www.epa.gov/ttbnrmrl/  for information
and registration.
 [deletions]

EPA Reports

"Hydrogeologic Framework, Groundwater Geochemistry, and Assessment of
Nitrogen Yield from Base Flow in Two Agricultural Watersheds, Kent County,
Maryland," EPA-600/R-02/008, http://www.epa.gov/ada  Hydrostratigraphic
and geochemical data collected in two adjacent watersheds on the Delmarva
Peninsula, in Kent County, Maryland, indicate that shallow subsurface
stratigraphy is an important factor that affects the concentrations of
nitrogen in groundwater discharging as stream base flow.  The flux of
nitrogen from shallow aquifers can contribute substantially to the
eutrophication of streams and estuaries, degrading water quality and
aquatic habitats. The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with EPA,
collected and analyzed hydrostratigraphic and geochemical data in support
of groundwater flow modeling by EPA.  (J. Williams, 580-436-8608)

"Economic Analysis of the Implementation of Permeable Reactive Barriers
for Remediation of Groundwater," EPA/600/R-02/034,  http://www.epa.gov/ada
 This report presents an analysis of the cost of using permeable reactive
barriers (PRBs) to remediate contaminated groundwater.  When possible,
these costs are compared with the cost of pump-and-treat technology for
similar situations.  Permeable reactive barriers are no longer perceived
as an innovative remediation technology but are rapidly maturing and may
be considered as a standard remediation technology, similar to
pump-and-treat.  PRB cost information was obtained from a variety of
sources, including reports, surveys, and interviews.  Costs were broken
out into four general categories: site characterization, design,
construction, and operation and maintenance.  A novel approach to
comparing treatment costs for PRBs is proposed and used.  It relies on
describing costs per the quantity of  water that actually needs to be
treated rather than the typical pump-and-treat approach of dollars per
gallon that enter the treatment system whether contaminated or not.
(Robert Puls, 580-435-8543)
[deletions]

***********************************************
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Inclusion of an item in Enviro-News does not imply
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nor does USDA attest to the accuracy or completeness of
the item. (See http://www.nal.usda.gov/listserv.html.)
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[log in to unmask]
********--Celebrating the Year of Clean Water--********

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