Environmental Restoration History
In 1976, Congress passed the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) designed to manage disposal of wastes which were being generated. In 1980, Congress passed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), also known as Superfund, requiring identification, investigation and cleanup of sites contaminated by past releases of hazardous substances. Congress amended CERCLA in 1986 to create the Defense Environmental Restoration Program which is managed by the Office of the Deputy Under-Secretary of Defense (Installations and Environment).
The Defense Environmental Restoration Program cleans up hazardous substances, pollutants, contaminants and military munitions remaining from past activities at military installations and formerly used defense sites.
There are two programs to accomplish cleanup goals. The Installation Restoration Program primarily addresses sites impacted by hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants that pose environmental health and safety risks. The Military Munitions Response Program responds to unexploded ordnance and military munitions waste at areas other than operational ranges.
As part of the environmental cleanup process, risk assessments are conducted. Risk assessments characterize the nature and magnitude of potential risks from exposure to chemical contaminants released into the environment to the health of humans (e.g., residents, workers, recreational visitors, etc.) via the Human Health Risk Assessment process and to ecological receptors (e.g., birds, fish, mammals, etc.) via the Ecological Risk Assessment process.
An Ecological Risk Assessment is used to evaluate ecological risks associated with the presence of contaminants in soil, surface water, sediment, and groundwater.
A Human Health Risk Assessment is conducted to evaluate the potential human health risks associated with the presence of contaminants in surface and subsurface soil, surface water, sediment, and groundwater at a site. The human health risk assessment characterizes current and potential future human health risks at a site if no additional remediation were to be implemented.