Project Description

CRESP’s focus at Hanford was to conduct an independent, Site-wide evaluation of risks and impacts to human health and resources

Memorandum from DOE Deputy Under Secretary Klaus to CRESP

In January 2014, the Consortium for Risk Evaluation with Stakeholder Participation (CRESP) was requested by U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Deputy Under Secretary Klaus to conduct a site-wide evaluation of human health, nuclear safety, environmental and cultural resource risks associated with existing hazards, environmental contamination and remaining cleanup activities. The goal of the Risk Review Project was to carry out a screening process for risks and impacts to human health and resources. Under this Risk Review Project, the human health and resources that were evaluated included groundwater and the Columbia River, facility workers, co-located people, the public, and ecological and cultural resources. The results of the Risk Review Project are intended to provide the DOE, regulators, tribal nations, and the public with a more comprehensive understanding of the remaining cleanup at the Hanford Site to help inform (1) decisions on sequencing of future cleanup activities, and (2) selection, planning and execution of specific cleanup actions, including which areas at the Hanford Site should be addressed earlier for additional characterization, analysis, and remediation.

At the onset of the project, CRESP, in dialogue with senior officials from the DOE and its regulatory agencies (i.e. Environmental Protection Agency and Washington State Departments of Ecology and Health), divided the Risk Review Project into three parts.

The first part of the Project was the development of scientifically sound approaches that distinguish a range of effects (e.g., not discernible, low high) on people and protected resources (groundwater, the Columbia River, ecological and cultural) from exposure to contaminants in the areas remaining to be cleaned up. These areas range from buried solid waste sites to contaminated groundwater plumes. Separate and distinct methodologies were developed to assess risks and impacts to people, groundwater, and ecological resources. Each methodology describes how the risks and impacts are to be rated based on the likelihood of an event occurring that triggers a release of contaminants that in turn threaten people and/or resources.

A draft of the methodology was tested using pilot cases and made available to the public and independent experts for comment. The DOE, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and State of Washington Departments of Ecology and Health also provided input. More than 300 comments were received, reviewed and carefully considered. The draft was revised based on comments and input received, lessons learned from the pilot case studies conducted to test the draft methodology, and other information reviewed. The final methodology (August 31 2015 Revision 0 was submitted to the DOE, EPA, and State of Washington on August 31, 2015 and is considered a public document.

The project’s second part consisted of the development of an interim report, which contains the evaluations and ratings of 25 of the 64 evaluation units (remaining cleanup areas at Hanford Site) using the methodologies developed for rating risks from contamination on people groundwater and the Columbia River, and ecological and cultural resources. To conduct the evaluations and make the ratings, publicly available information was gathered and analyzed on each evaluation unit. For cultural resources, professional archaeologists thoroughly reviewed cultural resource records to determine whether a resource is or has been present. An interim progress report was submitted in August 2015 and at the same time, made available for public comment. All written input received on this interim report during the 60-day public comment period informed the final report. The interim progress report is considered a public document.

As noted, the Risk Review Project was concerned with risk evaluation and not with risk management decisions. The Project is neither intended to substitute for, nor preempt any requirement imposed under applicable federal environmental laws. And, as important, the Risk Review Project was not intended to make or replace any decision made under the Hanford Federal Facility Agreement and Consent Order (Tri-Party Agreement) and/or 2010 Consent Order. Finally, the Risk Review Project was not intended to interpret a treaty entered into between the United States and a Native American Tribe.

The third part of the risk review project was the development of the final report, which contains the evaluations of all the units including those not addressed in the interim reports, results, and final observations. Appendices to the report contain the completed evaluation templates and underlying documentation supporting ecological and cultural resources. DOE conducted a technical and official use only review of the draft final report. Independent, outside experts conducted a peer review. The final report is considered a public document.

CRESP is a multi-disciplinary consortium of universities that advances environmental cleanup by finding ways to improve the scientific and technical basis for management decisions, and also to foster public participation in the effort. For more than 20 years, CRESP has conducted various studies, reviews, and assessments at DOE-EM sites around the country. Specifically, CRESP has completed risk informed characterization projects involving complex issues at both large and small DOE-EM sites. CRESP receives funding under a cooperative agreement between DOE-EM and Vanderbilt University as the lead organization for the multi-university consortium.

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