Ecological Evaluation for Site Remediation and Redevelopment in New Jersey

In May 2023, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) updated the Ecological Evaluation Technical Guidance for Contaminated Site Remediation & Redevelopment.  The updated document provides technical guidance on how to conduct an Ecological Evaluation (EE) and an Ecological Risk Assessment (ERA) pursuant to N.J.A.C. 7:26E-1.16 and N.J.A.C. 7:26E-4.8 for environmentally sensitive natural resources (ESNR) associated with contaminated sites.  Guidance is also provided for the derivation of site-specific ecological risk-based remediation goals and Risk Management Decisions (RMD).

Ecological Evaluations (EE) and Ecological Risk Assessments (ERA) are conducted to determine whether remedial actions are required in environmentally sensitive natural resources (ESNR) associated with contaminated sites and to provide the means to determine ecological risk-based remediation goals.  

Who Should Conduct the Ecological Evaluation (EE) and the Ecological Risk Assessment (ERA)?

Although the Licensed Site Remediation Professionals (LSRP) should understand the purpose and intent of this guidance - the investigator performing the EE and ERA must be experienced in the use of techniques and methodologies for conducting ERAs and must be able to comply with appropriate guidance including, but not limited to, USEPA’s Ecological Risk Assessment Guidance for Superfund, Process for Designing and Conducting Ecological Risk Assessments. If the LSRP does not possess the necessary qualifications, subcontracting to qualified investigators is appropriate.

NJDEP Guidance

NJDEP includes guidance on deriving site-specific ecological risk-based remediation goals, determining Risk Management Decisions (RMD), preparing the EE and ERA reports, managing special circumstances, and implementing data quality assurance and quality control measures.

The EE is initiated during the Site Investigation (SI) to examine the co-occurrence of ESNRs, Contaminants of Potential Ecological Concern (COPEC), and contaminant migration pathways from the site to the ESNR. The EE must be performed within one year from the initiation of remediation and will recommend either conducting an ERA or no further evaluation.

The ERA is a quantitative assessment of the actual or potential impacts of COPECs from a contaminated site on ecological receptors associated with ESNRs. It aims to determine ecological risks, identify the need for remediation, and generate data for site-specific ecological risk-based remediation goals and RMDs.

During the EE and ERA, numeric criteria like ecological screening values (ESC), ecological risk-based remediation goals, and RMD goals are used to evaluate contaminant levels associated with ESNRs. ESCs are conservative screening values used in the initial stages of the EE to assess potential impacts. Ecological risk-based remediation goals are calculated based on site conditions and observed or expected ecological receptors, while RMDs consider risk reduction, habitat preservation, and technical impracticability.

Remediation goals or RMDs may be applied depending on the circumstances to ensure ecological protection. The Soil Remediation Standards (SRS) found at N.J.A.C. 7:26D are not appropriate for ESNRs, as they are human health-based and differ from exposure in an ESNR setting.

The guidance provides further information and explanations on ESCs, remediation goals, RMDs, and their application in different scenarios.

How GZA Can Help

GZA’s ecologists work with LSRPs as well as site remediation professionals throughout the country conducting EEs and ERAs. GZA itself has multiple LSRPs on staff with decades of experience.

GZA routinely supports projects with a variety of site-specific surveys to address protected species and habitats.  Having worked closely with our in-house remediation specialists, our ecologists bring a perspective of not only understanding the EEs and ERAs but also possess in depth knowledge of the site investigation, remediation and redevelopment of contaminated sites. 

GZA has experienced, credentialed wetland scientists and soil scientists that can assist your projects where wetland identification, threatened and endangered (T&E) evaluation, and mitigation is required.  In addition, GZA has extensive experience designing, implementing compliance monitoring for new replacement wetlands, or enhancing existing disturbed wetland resources, to assist in the regulatory compliance requirements for client projects.