Abstract of Meeting Paper

Society for Risk Analysis-Europe 1997 Annual Meeting

Risks of Risk-Based Decision Making. Jo Anne Shatkin, Menzie-Cura & Associates, Inc., 1 Courthouse Lane, Suite 2, Chelmsford, Massachusetts 01824, USA, telephone 508-453-4300, fax 508-453-7260, e-mail JASHAT@aol.com

Various state and federal United States policies for setting cleanup standards for contaminated property are increasingly being established through risk-based methodology, rather than setting the standard to a pristine condition. This approach allows sites to be cleaned up to a standard that is protective of human health, rather than to background levels, which is often infeasible and/or costly. The risk-based approach offers flexibility in setting cleanup levels and is considered crucial to many urban economic revitalization initiatives, popularly called Brownfields, that can include placing limits on uses of a property to avoid risks associated with exposure to site contaminants.

The risk-based approach breaks down when background levels of contaminants are higher than would be determined through quantitative risk analysis because contaminants are either naturally occurring or are ubiquitously high in an area. Several issues are raised by this risk management approach: What contributes to the elevated levels, and is incremental risk detectable in comparison to naturally occurring levels of pollutants?

What does it mean to implement a risk-based policy that is not necessarily protective of human health risk?

Depending on the contaminants of concern, different risk levels are applied to different types of sites. Who pays and who benefits from this approach?

These issues are addressed through evaluation of case studies. Alternative approaches to establishing site-specific cleanup levels are evaluated using criteria of fairness, health protectiveness, cost, and ease of implementation.

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