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Vulnerabilities and Uncertainties in Long-Term Stewardship

Long-Term Management of Contaminated Sites

ISBN: 978-0-76231-319-8, eISBN: 978-1-84950-419-5

Publication date: 7 December 2006


The need for long-term stewardship for hazards is widespread and increasing. Many of the largest and most complex sites requiring stewardship are within the U.S. Department of Energy's nuclear weapons complex, though many “brownfields” and Superfund sites in the private sector have similar needs for long-term care. High cleanup costs and difficult-to-resolve technical challenges are the main reasons why such sites are not being cleaned up to support unrestricted use. EPA policy changes are now redirecting cleanup efforts toward waste isolation and containment-in-place rather than waste removal. This shift is not being matched by a corresponding shift in the conceptual and operational approach to remediation planning. The process logic of cleanup continues to be “single-pass” and linear, via sequential planning and implementation stages that aim to declare sites “cleaned up and closed” once the sought-after degree of waste isolation from the biotic environment is achieved. Instead an iterative and nonlinear process logic is required – one that directs cleanup toward the needs of effective stewardship of the remaining residual contamination rather than toward regulatory standards that support the selected future land use for the site. This redirection of cleanup logic shifts the focus in remediation planning to vulnerabilities and uncertainties associated with long-term stewardship rather than the degree of isolation of wastes from human populations and the environment achieved. Such a shift is needed in recognition that situations of restricted human use of still-contaminated sites are being created that remain vulnerable to failure given the length of time over which stewardship is required.


Travis, C. (2006), "Vulnerabilities and Uncertainties in Long-Term Stewardship", Leschine, T.M. (Ed.) Long-Term Management of Contaminated Sites (Research in Social Problems and Public Policy, Vol. 13), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 195-212.



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