BUILDING A FOUNDATION FOR SOUND ENVIRONMENTAL DECISIONS

Committee on Research Opportunities and Priorities for EPA

Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology

Water Science and Technology Board

Commission on Geosciences, Environment, and Resources

National Research Council

National Academy Press
Washington, D.C. 1997



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Building a Foundation for Sound Environmental Decisions BUILDING A FOUNDATION FOR SOUND ENVIRONMENTAL DECISIONS Committee on Research Opportunities and Priorities for EPA Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology Water Science and Technology Board Commission on Geosciences, Environment, and Resources National Research Council National Academy Press Washington, D.C. 1997

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Building a Foundation for Sound Environmental Decisions NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS 2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W. Washington, DC 20418 NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competencies and with regard for appropriate balance. This report has been reviewed by a group other than the authors according to procedures approved by a Report Review Committee consisting of members of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. This study was supported by Contract Number 68W40044 between the National Academy of Sciences and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the organizations or agencies that provided support for this project. Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 97-67451 International Standard Book No. 0-309-05795-7 Additional copies of this report are available from: National Academy Press 2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W. Box 285 Washington, D.C. 20055 800-624-6242 202-334-3313 (in the Washington Metropolitan Area) http://www.nap.edu Cover art created by Carrie Mallory. Ms. Mallory received her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. She takes many of her themes from the natural world and she has provided covers for many National Research Council reports. Copyright 1997 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America

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Building a Foundation for Sound Environmental Decisions COMMITTEE ON RESEARCH OPPORTUNITIES AND PRIORITIES FOR THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY RAYMOND C. LOEHR, Chair, The University of Texas, Austin SANDRA O. ARCHIBALD, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis JOHN I. BRAUMAN, Stanford University, California JOHN D. BREDEHOEFT, The Hydrodynamics Group, La Honda, California GEORGE P. DALTON, The Procter & Gamble Co., Cincinnati, Ohio KENNETH L. DEMERJIAN, State University of New York-Albany NINA V. FEDOROFF, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park ROLF HARTUNG, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor JAMES F. HAYS, National Science Foundation, (retired), Arlington, Virginia CHARLES E. KOLB, Aerodyne Research, Inc., Billerica, Massachusetts JUDITH McDOWELL, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Massachusetts JUDITH L. MEYER, University of Georgia, Athens CHARLES R. O'MELIA, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland *MICHAEL J. WILEY, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor GARY M. WILLIAMS, American Health Foundation, Valhalla, New York ROY L. WOLFE, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Los Angeles LILY YOUNG, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey THOMAS W. ZOSEL, 3M Company, St. Paul, Minnesota Staff MORGAN GOPNIK, Study Director SHEILA DAVID, Senior Staff Officer DAVID POLICANSKY, Senior Staff Officer (until 10/96) ADRIENNE S. DAVIS, Senior Project Assistant (until 3/97) STEPHANIE VANN, Project Assistant (as of 2/97) ANGELA BRUBAKER, Research Assistant ANNE McCASLAND-PEXTON, Intern *   Michael J. Wiley resigned on 10/15/96 due to scheduling conflicts.

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Building a Foundation for Sound Environmental Decisions BOARD ON ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES AND TOXICOLOGY PAUL G. RISSER, Chair, Oregon State University, Corvallis MAY R. BERENBAUM, University of Illinois, Urbana EULA BINGHAM, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio PAUL BUSCH, Malcolm Pirnie, Inc., White Plains, New York EDWIN H. CLARK II, Clean Sites, Inc., Alexandria, Virginia ELLIS COWLING, North Carolina State University, Raleigh GEORGE P. DASTON, The Procter & Gamble Co., Cincinnati, Ohio PETER L. DEFUR, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond DAVID L. EATON, University of Washington, Seattle DIANA FRECKMAN, Colorado State University, Ft. Collins ROBERT A. FROSCH, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts DANIEL KREWSKI, Health & Welfare Canada, Ottawa, Ontario RAYMOND C. LOEHR, The University of Texas, Austin WARREN MUIR, Hampshire Research Institute, Alexandria, Virginia GORDON ORIANS, University of Washington, Seattle GEOFFREY PLACE, The Procter & Gamble, Co., (retired), South Carolina BURTON H. SINGER, Princeton University, New Jersey MARGARET STRAND, Bayh, Connaughton and Malone, Washington, D.C. BAILUS WALKER, JR., Howard University, Washington, D.C. GERALD N. WOGAN, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge TERRY F. YOSIE, Ruder Finn, Washington, D.C. Staff JAMES J. REISA, Director DAVID J. POLICANSKY, Associate Director and Program Director for Natural Resources and Applied Ecology CAROL A. MACZKA, Program Director for Toxicology and Risk Assessment LEE R. PAULSON, Program Director for Information Systems and Statistics RAYMOND A. WASSEL, Program Director for Environmental Sciences and Engineering

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Building a Foundation for Sound Environmental Decisions WATER SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY BOARD DAVID L. FREYBERG, Chair, Stanford University, California BRUCE E. RITTMANN, Vice Chair, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois LINDA ABRIOLA, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor JOHN BRISCOE, The World Bank, Washington, D.C. WILLIAM M. EICHBAUM, The World Wildlife Fund, Washington, D.C. WILFORD R. GARDNER, University of California, (retired), Berkeley EVILLE GORHAM, University of Minnesota, St. Paul THOMAS M. HELLMAN, Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, New York CHARLES D. D. HOWARD, Charles Howard and Associates, Ltd., Victoria, British Columbia, Canada CAROL A. JOHNSTON, University of Minnesota, Duluth WILLIAM M. LEWIS, JR., University of Colorado, Boulder JOHN W. MORRIS, J. W. Morris, Limited, Arlington, Virginia CHARLES R. O'MELIA, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland REBECCA T. PARKIN, American Public Health Association, Washington, D.C. IGNACIO RODRIGUEZ-ITURBE, Texas A&M University, College Station FRANK W. SCHWARTZ, Ohio State University, Columbus HENRY VAUX, JR., University of California, Riverside Staff STEPHEN D. PARKER, Director SHEILA D. DAVID, Senior Staff Officer CHRIS ELFRING, Senior Staff Officer JACQUELINE A. MACDONALD, Senior Staff Officer GARY D. KRAUSS, Staff Officer ANGELA F. BRUBAKER, Research Assistant JEANNE AQUILINO, Administrative Associate ANITA A. HALL, Administrative Assistant ELLEN DE GUZMAN, Senior Project Assistant STEPHANIE VANN, Senior Project Assistant

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Building a Foundation for Sound Environmental Decisions COMMISSION ON GEOSCIENCES, ENVIRONMENT, AND RESOURCES GEORGE M. HORNBERGER, Chair, University of Virginia, Charlottesville PATRICK R. ATKINS, Aluminum Company of America, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania JAMES P. BRUCE, Canadian Climate Program Board, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada WILLIAM L. FISHER, The University of Texas, Austin JERRY F. FRANKLIN, University of Washington, Seattle THOMAS E. GRAEDEL, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut DEBRA KNOPMAN, Progressive Foundation, Washington, D.C. KAI N. LEE, Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts. PERRY L. McCARTY, Stanford University, California JUDITH E. MCDOWELL, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Massachusetts RICHARD A. MESERVE, Covington & Burling, Washington, D.C. S. GEORGE PHILANDER, Princeton University, New Jersey RAYMOND A. PRICE, Queen's University at Kingston, Ontario, Canada THOMAS C. SCHELLING, University of Maryland, College Park ELLEN SILBERGELD, University of Maryland Medical School, Baltimore VICTORIA J. TSCHINKEL, Landers and Parsons, Tallahassee, Florida E-AN ZEN, University of Maryland, College Park Staff STEPHEN RATTIEN, Executive Director STEPHEN D. PARKER, Associate Executive Director MORGAN GOPNIK, Assistant Executive Director GREGORY SYMMES, Reports Officer JAMES MALLORY, Administrative Officer SANDI FITZPATRICK, Administrative Associate MARQUITA SMITH, Administrative Assistant/Technology Analyst

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Building a Foundation for Sound Environmental Decisions The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. William A. Wulf is president of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Kenneth I. Shine is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy's purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts and Dr. William A. Wulf are chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council.

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Building a Foundation for Sound Environmental Decisions Preface As we approach the twenty-first century, the task of protecting human health and the environment is becoming ever more complex. Growing worldwide population, industrial growth, and related pressures on the environment, combined with a realization of the tremendous complexity of environmental systems, present us with new challenges. Identification of possible environmental problems early in their evolution, continued development of knowledge needed to better understand the severity and impact of these problems, and implementation of appropriate steps based on sound science to avoid or prevent the important problems and greatest risks are essential for the stewardship of the planet. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as the lead environmental protection agency in the United States, must have the scientific capacity to address both current and future environmental problems. To maintain and enhance this capacity, the EPA, in addition to carrying out its mandate to implement environmental laws, must maintain a strong research program. In the fall of 1995, the EPA Office of Research and Development (ORD) requested that the National Research Council (NRC) advise the agency on research opportunities and priorities that could help EPA address current and future environmental problems. To accomplish this task, the NRC, through its Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology and its Water Science and Technology Board, established a multidisciplinary committee, the Committee on Research Opportunities and Priorities for EPA (See Appendix 3 for biographical sketches of committee members.). The committee's members collectively possess decades of experience in governmental and nongovernmental organizations working on research and solutions related to important environmental problems. The NRC committee gathered relevant information for this report by meeting with and interviewing individuals from many organizations and with diverse backgrounds and by reviewing previous reports that have addressed similar topics. In addition, the committee drew upon the broad knowledge and experience of its members.

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Building a Foundation for Sound Environmental Decisions This report is intended to help shape a new framework for research conducted and sponsored by EPA. As such it does not contain a detailed assessment of current activities, management policies, or budgets. Nor does it provide prescriptive guidance in respect to implementation of its recommendations. Rather, it is a broad, forward-looking document intended to assist EPA managers responsible for strategic planning for the Office of Research and Development in laying out new directions and policies for the Agency. It should also be of value to Congress and the White House as they consider appropriate roles and directions for EPA. Another NRC committee, the Committee on Research and Peer Review at EPA, has been working in parallel with this committee. That committee, whose report will be released later in 1997, is exploring questions concerning EPA's research management practices. Its findings should serve as a useful complement to the research framework presented in this report. The committee hopes that this report will help EPA and the nation add to the building blocks of scientific knowledge needed to better protect human health and the environment. Our aim is to ensure that the EPA develops a permanent mechanism for conducting the research necessary for better environmental stewardship. At the same time, the EPA must work cooperatively with others to take advantage of important research being carried out in other organizations. Because EPA's mandate is so broad, and its research correspondingly wide-ranging, no single discipline or research topic could be covered fully in this report. The many shaded boxes serve as illustrative examples of valuable research areas. Many other important topics could also serve to illustrate the themes laid out in this document. The ideas presented in this report represent the breadth of knowledge and creativity of the committee members. Committee discussions were wide-ranging and thought provoking. It was a pleasure serving as chair and being a member of such a capable, hard-working, and distinguished group of individuals. The committee is very grateful for the assistance and dedication of the NRC staff who aided the committee and helped prepare this report. In particular, we wish to recognize Morgan Gopnik, study director, whose expertise added to the discussions and whose hard work and skill in organizing, integrating, and polishing the various chapters are responsible for the readability of the report. In addition, we would like to recognize and thank Sheila David for her hard work and assistance in helping prepare and finalize the committee report. In addition, we would like to thank Adrienne Davis for arranging the committee's meetings and to thank Stephanie Vann for bringing the manuscript to completion. Finally, we wish to recognize the staff members of EPA's ORD for their dialogues with the committee and for their continued efforts to manage a high-quality research program in the face of difficult budget constraints. RAYMOND C. LOEHR Chair

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Building a Foundation for Sound Environmental Decisions Contents     EXECUTIVE SUMMARY   1 1   ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES   5     Solving Problems   5     Recognizing Limitations   6     Complexity, Unpredictability, and Surprise   9     EPA's Research Challenge   10     History and Purpose of This Study   11     Scope of This Report   12 2   IMPROVING OUR UNDERSTANDING OF ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES   13     Identifying Current and Emerging Problems   13     A Framework for Environmental Research   16     Core Research   17     Implementing a Core Research Program   32 3   ACHIEVING A FOCUSED RESEARCH AGENDA   37     Anticipating Emerging Environmental Problems   37     Identifying Environmental Problems in Need of Focused Attention   41     Criteria for Prioritizing Among Identified Issues   43     Developing and Maintaining Risk Assessment Capabilities at EPA   47     Retaining Flexibility   48 4   EPA'S POSITION IN THE BROADER ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH ENTERPRISE   49     EPA's Role in Research   49     Partnerships with Other Government Organizations and the Private Sector   49

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Building a Foundation for Sound Environmental Decisions     Strengthening Scientific Capacity at EPA   53     Improving Cooperative Data Collection and Evaluation   55 5   SUMMARY, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS   59     Summary   59     Conclusions   59     Recommendations   62     REFERENCES   67     APPENDIXES         1 INTERIM REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE ON RESEARCH OPPORTUNITIES AND PRIORITIES FOR EPA   73     2 REPORTS ANALYZED TO IDENTIFY PRIORITY ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES   81     3 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES OF COMMITTEE MEMBERS   83

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Building a Foundation for Sound Environmental Decisions List of Boxes, Figures, and Tables BOXES 1-1   Selenium Contamination at Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge: Research Helps Solve Identified Environmental Problem   7 2-1   The Three Components of Core Environmental Research   18 2-2   Soil and Ground Water Contamination: Limited Knowledge of Environmental processes Slowed Progress   20 2-3   Understanding Humic Substances: Core Research Can Be Used to Address a Variety of Environmental Problems   21 2-4   The Impact of Airborne Particulates on Human Health: Core Research Needed to Identify Cause-and-Effect Relationships   22 2-5   Measuring Large-Scale Air Pollution: Application of New Tools   24 2-6   Applying Biological Microchip Technology to Environmental Assessment, Analysis, and Remediation Problems   26 2-7   Sub-Microgram Analysis Techniques for Geochemical and Geophysical Characterization   27 2-8   Human Variability in Toxic Response: Incomplete Understanding of Biological Processes Hinders Accurate Risk Assessments   28 2-9   Risk Characterization and Communication: Developing Better Methods to Apply to Many Environmental Problems   30 2-10   The Challenges of Long-Term Ecosystem Monitoring   34 3-1   Nutrient Contamination of Coastal Waters: Attacking a Difficult Problem   38 3-2   Effectiveness of Control Strategies for Tropospheric Ozone   42 3-3   Drinking Water Disinfection   44 3-4   Criteria for Selecting Among Identified Environmental Issues   45 3-5   Environmental Endocrine Modulators: Reducing Uncertainties   47

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Building a Foundation for Sound Environmental Decisions 4-1   Global Climate Change: A Large-Scale, Complex Problem Requires an Interdisciplinary, Multi-Agency Approach   51 4-2   Long-Term Studies Lead to Understanding of Complex Interactions   56 FIGURES 1-1   Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and ozone depletion: Advances in science and policy through 1996   8 2-1   Accurate, sustained monitoring efforts at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii demonstrated rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere— an important piece of the climate change puzzle   31 2-2   Elements of a successful environmental monitoring program   32 3-1   Identification and mitigation of environmental problems is a continual process   39 3-2   The growth of industry and agriculture in the past 200 years has promoted at least six identifiable components of global environmental change   40 3-3   The risk assessment process   46 4-1   Some of the many partners in the environmental research endeavor   50 5-1   A framework for environmental research at EPA   61 TABLES 2-1   Identified Environmental Issues   14 2-2   Key Processes Underlying Environmental Systems   19 2-3   Environmental Research and Management Tools   25 5-1   Recommended Actions for EPA   64

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Building a Foundation for Sound Environmental Decisions BUILDING A FOUNDATION FOR SOUND ENVIRONMENTAL DECISIONS

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