The Sea of Environmental Risk assessment: A Navigational Guide for Hydrocarbon Contamination
David L. Hippensteel
Federal and many state regulations governing hydrocarbon- contaminated site remediation and closure require environmental risk assessment activities for developing remediation systems and site closure strategies protective of human and ecological populations. Environmental risk assessments activities are normally foreign to many petroleum industry professionals. This paper is intended to provide those professionals with sufficient knowledge to achieve environmental risk assessment success.
Classic environmental risk assessment process consists of data collection and evaluation, exposure assessment, toxicity assessment and risk characterization. These steps ultimately result in identifying what contaminants were released, evaluating which contaminants pose a threat to humans and ecosystems and quantifying how harmful each of the contaminants are to certain human and ecological populations.
The physiochemical nature of hydrocarbons relevant to remediation is relevant to risk assessment. The facts that most hydrocarbons are not easily miscible in water, volatilize in the presence of air, readily sorb to clays and are actively bioremediated in the subsurface enable one to avoid risk assessment barriers often encountered with inorganic chemicals. The very unique way hydrocarbons behave in the environment should be used by the petroleum professional turned risk assessment/site closure manager to eliminate chemical exposure scenarios based on little more than organic chemistry. This technique allows petroleum industry professionals to use their realm of expertise to familiarize otherwise unknown waters.
AAPG Search and Discover Article #91019©1996 AAPG Convention and Exhibition 19-22 May 1996, San Diego, California