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Superfund

Superfund National Risk-Based Priority Panel

Overview

In August 1995, EPA established a National Risk-Based Priority Panel of program experts to evaluate the risk at National Priorities List sites with respect to human health and the environment. The Agency uses these evaluations to establish funding priorities for all new cleanup construction projects in the Superfund program. This national approach is intended as a way for each Region to list its priority projects and rank these projects against priority projects from other Regions, ensuring that scarce resources are allocated to the projects posing the most risk to human health and the environment.

This system allows for an evaluation of projects based on the following principles:

  • Protection of human health;
  • Protection from significant environmental threats; and
  • Potential human health or environmental threats based upon current site conditions.

Five criteria and associated weighting factors are used to compare projects based on common criteria. These include risks to human population exposed, contaminant stability, contaminant characteristics, threat to a significant environment, and program management considerations.

The National Risk-Based Priority Panel is comprised of national program experts from Regional offices and Headquarters. The panel met for the first time in 1995 to finalize the protocol for ranking projects on a national level and to begin voting on projects that were ready for funding during Fiscal Year 1996. The panel continues to meet during the course of the year as needed to prioritize new projects.

Note that while this memo established the panel and procedures, there have been minor adjustments through the years.

Prioritization Criteria

Five criteria and associated weighting factors are used to classify threats that contaminants may pose. These include risks to human population exposed, contaminant stability, contaminant characteristics, threat to a significant environment, and program management considerations.

Each criteria is ranked on a scale of one to five. The highest score for any criteria is five, representing a current risk-current exposure scenario posing risk to human health and the environment. The lowest score for a factor is one, representing a future risk-future exposure scenario.

Factor Weight
A. Risks to human population exposed: Population size, proximity to contaminants, likelihood of exposure. 5
B. Stability: Mobility of contaminant, site structure, and effectiveness of any institutional or physical controls. 5
C. Contaminant characteristics: Concentration, toxicity and volume. 3
D. Threat to a significant environment: Endangered species or their critical habitats, sensitive environmental areas. 3
E. Program measurement consideration: Innovative technologies, cost delays, high profile projects, environmental justice, state involvement, Brownfields/economic redevelopment. 4

The raw score for each factor is multiplied as follows to obtain the maximum score:

  Raw Score Range x Weight Factor =Maximum Total Score
A. Population exposed 1 - 5 x 5 25
B. Stability 1 - 5 x 5 25
C. Contaminant characteristics 1 - 5 x 3 15
D. Threat to significant environment 1 - 5 x 3 15
E. Program management considerations 1 - 5 x 4 20
Maximum total project score       100