In 1998 the New Zealand Foundation for Research, Science and
Technology funded a three-year research programme to develop tools to help
environmental managers manage contaminated sites.
Why? Because there are an estimated 7200 contaminated sites in New Zealand. Many of these sites are
contaminated by heavy metals (including copper, chromium and arsenic
CCA) and petroleum hydrocarbons, (including
benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene - BTEX).
Methods for assessing risks to human health are relatively well known. However,
environmental or ecological risk assessment is not as well developed, and the practical
tools required by risk managers are lacking.
In particular, little is known about the
effect of contaminants on New Zealand native species.
The programme aims to help environmental risk managers to make informed
human health and ecological risk
assessments at contaminated sites and to derive New Zealand-specific environmental
tolerance levels in soil, groundwater, and surface water for key contaminants.
The project team comprised individuals from a
number of Crown Research Institutes and environmental consultancy companies in New
Research Programme Approach
1. Review of existing human health and ecological risk
This involved an extensive review of
- over 600 reports, publications, web sites, and internet
databases covering ecological risk assessment, and
- more than 100 risk assessment, contaminant migration and dispersion
Some of the important documents, databases, and models are discussed
in this web site, with links to many of the internet-based sources of information
2. Consultation with end-users
A number of questions were asked:
- What types of assessment are used for contaminated sites?
- What tools are used?
- Are these tools adequate?
- What sort of information and tools would be useful?
3. Developing and testing standardised toxicity
Protocols have been developed for assessing the effects of contaminants on a range of organisms inhabiting
selected receiving environments, including:
- soil microbes
- indigenous (or common naturalised) soil invertebrates
- native plants
- indigenous freshwater invertebrates and
- freshwater fish species.
4. Testing contaminant mobility in soils
Eight New Zealand subsoils were tested for retention of heavy metals and BTEX to
characterise the role of New Zealand soil-specific factors on the mobilities of soil
contaminants into groundwater and surface water bodies.
5. Integration of the model
This web site integrates the risk assessment models, contaminant mobility models, and
tolerance levels for ecological receptors, by:
- describing the different approaches to ecological risk
- evaluating the advantages and disadvantages of different
- providing New Zealand-specific reference data.
A number of new ecological risk assessment models are being developed around the
world for contaminated sites.
This web site will contribute to the development of these models by
providing New Zealand specific-information.