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Managing Uncertainty in Environmental Decisions

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Abstract:Many environmental decision makers and practitioners worldwide assume that the quality of data pertaining to a contaminated site is primarily determined by the nature of thhe analytical chemistry methods used to collect information. This assumption, which diminishes the importance of sampling uncertainties, can have a pronounced, negative effect on the cost and effectiveness on contaminated site cleanups.

Data produced by regulator-approved laboratory analytical methods are commonly assumed to be practically free of uncertainty and so are termed "definitive data". In contrast, data produced in the field are generalized as "field screening" and are considered too uncertain to support important project decision or regulatory actions. One of the reasons for such generalizations is that the current regulatory mindset does not readily distinguish between analytical methods and the data produced by them. Although the assumptions behind this mindset are inaccurate, they are pervasive enough to inhibit the widespread adoption of better strategies for assessing and restoring contaminated sites.
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Citation:Crumbling, D., C. Groenjes, B. Lesnik, K. Lynch, J. Mckenna, J. Shockley, J. J. Van Ee, R. Howe, and L. Keith. Managing Uncertainty in Environmental Decisions. ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY 35(19):404A-409A, (2001).
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Contact: Chris Siebert - (702) 798-2234 or siebert.christopher@epa.gov
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Division: Environmental Sciences Division
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Branch: Characterization & Monitoring Branch
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Product Type: Journal
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Published: 10/01/2001
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Related Entries:
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Bullet Item Efficient Monitoring of Heterogeneous Media and Electronic Wastes
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Last Updated on Monday, October 22, 2007
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