Adaptation Strategy for Resilient Remedies

Washington State Department of Ecology

Washington State

Climate Change

Hart Crowser assisted the Washington State Department of Ecology with a vulnerabilities analysis to understand how climate change may impact contaminated sites and cleanup remedies. The goal of this work was to develop an adaptation strategy to increase resilience of upland and in-water cleanup remedies.

You can access the document here and the focus sheet here.

The objective was to:

  • Identify and rank the vulnerability of MTCA cleanup sites to specific impacts from climate change.
  • Develop an adaptation policy and/or procedure to ensure cleanup remedies are more resilient to climate change impacts.

This work supported Ecology’s ability to increase the resilience of cleanup remedies from the impacts of climate change. Our work supported implementation of Sediment Management Standards (SMS), Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA), and Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) provisions and the cleanup process by:

  • Improving the permanence and long-term effectiveness of cleanup remedies.
  • Increasing protection of human health and the environment.
  • Improving the efficiency of the remedial investigation and feasibility process.
  • Streamlining decision-making for cleanup site managers to address climate change.
  • Harmonizing the vulnerability analysis processes and adaptation strategies for MTCA and Superfund sites in response to impacts from climate change.

Adapting to extreme environmental events associated with climate change and related impacts are a critical challenge for Washington State. Some of these impacts addressed by this study include:

  • Rising sea levels and increasing inundation.
  • More frequent heavy rain events and earlier spring melting of the snowpack resulting in increasing flood hazards and landslides.
  • Increasing drought in the summer months.
  • Increasing risk of wildfires.
  • Acidification of the marine waters in Puget Sound.

Ecology and Hart Crowser conducted a vulnerabilities analysis to understand what cleanup sites are most vulnerable to specific impacts from climate change: sea level rise, flooding, wildfire, and landslide. Of the cleanup sites that had high vulnerability to these impacts, we found that sea level rise had the highest potential risk to sediment sites and upland cleanup sites near marine waterbodies, followed by flooding, wildfire, and landslide for upland sites located further inland.

To improve Ecology’s ability to respond to these impacts, we assisted in the development of an adaptation strategy aimed at increasing the resilience of cleanup remedies. The adaptation strategy includes:

  • Guidance on how to increase remedy resilience, with recommendations for cleanup site managers to implement during each phase of the cleanup process.
  • A web-based interactive GIS tool for site managers to locate vulnerable cleanup sites and understand the potential threats in order to implement the adaptation strategy.