Investigating habitat value to inform contaminant remediation options: case study
Habitat valuation methods were implemented to support remedial decisions for aquatic and terrestrial contaminated sites at the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP) on the US Department of Energy (DOE) Oak Ridge Reservation in Oak Ridge, TN, USA. The habitat valuation was undertaken for six contaminated sites: Contractor’s Spoil Area, K-901-N Disposal Area, K-770 Scrapyard, K-1007-P1 pond, K-901 pond, and the Mitchell Branch stream. Four of these sites are within the industrial use area of ETTP and two are in the Black Oak Ridge Conservation Easement. These sites represent terrestrial and aquatic habitat for vertebrates, terrestrial habitat for plants, and aquatic habitat for benthic invertebrates. Current and potential future, no-action (no remediation) scenarios were evaluated primarily using existing information. Valuation metrics and scoring criteria were developed in a companion paper, this volume. The habitat valuation consists of extensive narratives, as well as scores for aspects of site use value, site rarity, and use value added from spatial context. Metrics for habitat value were expressed with respect to different spatial scales, depending on data availability. There was significant variation in habitat value among the six sites, among measures for different taxa at a single site, between measures of use and rarity at a single site, and among measures for particular taxa at a single site with respect to different spatial scales. Most sites had aspects of low, medium, and high habitat value. Few high scores for current use value were given. These include: wetland plant communities at all aquatic sites, Lepomid sunfish and waterbirds at 1007-P1 pond, and Lepomid sunfish and amphibians at K-901 pond. Aquatic sites create a high-value ecological corridor for waterbirds, and the Contractor’s Spoil Area and possibly the K-901-N Disposal Site have areas that are part of a strong terrestrial ecological corridor. The only example of recent observations of rare species at these sites is the gray bat observed at the K-1007-P1 pond. Some aspects of habitat value are expected to improve under no-action scenarios at a few of the sites. Methods are applicable to other contaminated sites where sufficient ecological data are available for the site and region.