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Quantifying reduction in ecological risk in Penrhyn Estuary, Sydney, Australia, following groundwater remediation



The environmental risk associated with discharge of contaminated groundwater containing a complex mixture of at least 14 volatile chlorinated hydrocarbons (VCHs) to Penrhyn Estuary, Sydney, Australia has previously been assessed. That probabilistic ecological risk assessment (ERA) was undertaken using surface water monitoring data from 2004 to 2005. Subsequently, in 2006, a groundwater remediation system was installed and commissioned to prevent further discharge of VCHs into the estuary. The present study assessed the ecological risk posed to the estuary after 2006 to evaluate the success of the remediation system. The ERA was undertaken using toxicity data derived from direct toxicity assessment (DTA) of preremediation contaminated groundwater using indigenous species, exposure data from surface water monitoring between 2007 and 2008 and the joint probability curve (JPC) methodology. The risk posed was measured in 4 zones of the entire site: source area (2), tributary (2), the inner estuary and outer estuary at high, low, and a combination of high and low tides. In the 2 source areas, risk decreased by over 2 and over 1 orders of magnitude to maximum values of less than 0.5%. In 1 estuary, risk decreased by over 1 order of magnitude, from a maximum of 36% to a maximum of 2.3%. At the other tributary and both the inner and outer estuaries, the risk decreased to less than 1%, regardless of the tide. This analysis revealed that the remediation system was very effective and that the standard level of protection required for slightly to moderately affected ecosystems (95% of species) by the Australian and New Zealand Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Water Quality was met postremediation. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2012;8:98–106. © 2011 SETAC