Ecological Risk Assessment

Definition: Process for analyzing and evaluating the possibility of adverse ecological effects caused by environmental pollutants. Identifying the potential for impacts to environmentally sensitive resources that may have resulted from the release of contaminants at the site.

ASGECI has conducted Ecological Risk Assessments (ERA) in accordance with both New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) guidance documents.

Projects that are solely regulated by NJDEP must be investigated in accordance with the Technical Requirements for Site Remediation (N.J.A.C 7:26E). The first level of investigation for an ERA in New Jersey is the Baseline Ecological Evaluation (BEE). The Baseline Ecological Evaluation (BEE) is the first level of investigation and includes:

  • An inventory of natural resources and qualitative survey of vegetation communities and wildlife.
  • Potential contaminant migration pathways and ecological receptors to any designated natural resources area identified.
  • Information regarding contaminant levels in surface soils, groundwater, sediment, and surface water (if applicable) is evaluated to assess the potential for impact to environmentally sensitive resources based upon ecological thresholds established by State and Federal agencies as well as thresholds identified in scientific literature.

The BEE will develop conclusions and recommendations that will either recommend no further action or identify the need to move on to the next phase of evaluation, the Ecological Risk Assessment.

Ecological Risk Assessment Support
In support of an Ecological Risk Assessment for potential impacts to aquatic biota, ASGECI biologists may conduct biological sampling of streams for the collection of benthic macroinvertebrates for identification to the genus/species level. Benthic macroinvertebrate surveys follow the methodology in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Rapid Bioassessment Protocols for Use in Wadeable Streams and Rivers, (1999).

ASGECI collects water quality data (i.e.; temperature, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, pH and turbidity) and water and sediment samples are collected for laboratory analysis. ASGECI records stream depth and channel width at each sampling station as required. ASGECI performs a statistical analysis of the benthic macroinvertebrate sample data and prepares a Benthic Macroinvertebrate Resources Inventory Report presenting our findings, and for incorporation into the Ecological Risk Assessment.

Ecological Risk Assessment may also include collection of other organisms for tissue analysis.
Federal hazardous site investigations, including Superfund sites, are conducted in accordance with USEPA's Guidelines for Ecological Risk Assessments (1998). This guidance combines the BEE and ERA phases of the NJDEP regulations into a single comprehensive investigation that stresses that ERA's follow a logical evaluation sequence that involves problem formulation, analysis, risk characterization, and risk management.

ASGECI has performed numerous Baseline Ecological Evaluations and performed benthic macroinvertebrate, aquatic sampling, and other sampling in support of Ecological Risk Assessments. Projects have included former industrial sites, landfills and other properties in New Jersey and New York for public and private clients.

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