An ecological risk assessment framework for effects of onsite wastewater treatment systems and other localized sources of nutrients on aquatic ecosystems
Date of Original Version
An ecological risk assessment framework for onsite wastewater treatment systems and other localized sources of nutrients is presented, including problem formulation, characterization of exposure, characterization of effects, and risk characterization. The framework is most pertinent to the spatial scale of residential treatment systems located adjacent to small ponds, streams, or lagoons and some parts of shallow estuaries. Freshwater and estuarine ecosystems are distinguished based on differences in nutrient dynamics. Phosphorus exposure is the major determinant of phytoplankton production in most North American lakes. Nitrate can be directly toxic to aquatic biota such as amphibians. In shallow estuaries or lagoons, nitrogen is the primary stressor, which can be directly toxic to vegetation or can interact with biota to produce secondary stressors (limited light penetration, oxygen limitation, reduction in habitat, or reduction in forage vegetation or prey). Algal production, macrophyte production, fish community abundance and production, benthic community abundance and production, and amphibian community abundance and production are examples of risk assessment endpoint properties. Models and measurement methods for the characterization of exposure and effects are discussed, as well as sources and quantification of uncertainty. Example weight-of-evidence tables are presented for failure scenarios involving traditional and emerging onsite wastewater system technologies.
Publication Title, e.g., Journal
Human and Ecological Risk Assessment
Efroymson, Rebecca A., Daniel S. Jones, and Arthur J. Gold. "An ecological risk assessment framework for effects of onsite wastewater treatment systems and other localized sources of nutrients on aquatic ecosystems." Human and Ecological Risk Assessment 13, 3 (2007). doi: 10.1080/10807030701341142.