Abstract

The basis for an ecological risk assessment based on meeting the needs of recent UK and EU legislation is described. The background to the framework and the legislative driver and relevant definitions of harm are provided, prior to an overview of the proposed ecological risk assessment process, which has been broken down into a Tiered approach. Tier 0 requires the establishment of a conceptual site model, where potential contaminant-pathway-receptor linkages are sought and, assuming they are identified, lead on to higher Tier assessments. Tier 1 relies largely on chemical analysis of soil contaminant levels and comparison with soil quality guideline values to assess the likelihood of harm. In some cases biological screening assays may also be undertaken within this Tier. Based on a weight of evidence approach, should data Tier 1 indicate harm or leave uncertainty, then Tier 2 biological testing is undertaken using assays relevant to the site of interest. In situations where harm is identified under Tier 2 then Tier 3 is reserved for establishing the extent of harm within the ecosystem. Finally the use of the ‘weight-of-evidence’ approach to generate scientifically robust conclusions regarding the harm (or potential for harm) within the ecosystem is briefly outlined. The framework discussed is currently being adopted by the UK Environment Agency, with implementation expected in 2005. The UK scheme compares favourably with comparative schemes operating in other countries possessing the merits of being iterative, tiered, flexible with agreed exit points subject to satisfying defined criteria and so speeding the decision-making process.

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