Reassessing the Risk Assessment

by Wayne K. Tusa, (M.ASCE), Pres.; Environmental Risk and Loss Control Inc., New York, NY,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1992, Vol. 62, Issue 3, Pg. 46-48

Document Type: Feature article


Risk assessments should help an engineer determine cost-effective remedies to environmental pollution. Unfortunately, most don't. Most assessments drastically overestimate baseline risks, causing engineers to design overly protective remedies and forcing cleanup costs to soar. Much of the problem stems from the evolution of risk assessment. Risk analysis techniques have been developed for a variety of purposes and are now widely and inappropriately adapted to assess risks relating to site-specific contamination problems. Consequently, the focus of most risk assessments has been to assess worst case impact via a variety of conservative input assumptions and/or analytical techniques. Such an approach, however, is much less appropriate for evaluating alternative remedies and designing selected remedies for a contaminated site. In these applications, engineers require risk information that realistically depicts the risks posed under existing conditions. Only then can they evaluate a remedial alternative's ability to reduce those risks effectively to acceptable levels.

Subject Headings: Risk management | Pollution | Financial management | Environmental issues | Site investigation | Remediation

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