The Contaminants Assessment Process

Evaluating Contaminant Threats to National Wildlife Refuges

The Contaminants Assessment Process (CAP) is a standardized and comprehensive approach used to assess potential threats posed by environmental contaminants to National Wildlife Refuges as well as other Service lands.

The CAP process involves reviewing information available on the ecological and physical characteristics of the Service land and surrounding area relative to possible contaminant issues. This review requires the primary investigator to compile and interpret information acquired from various sources. To facilitate the investigation, the Service's Division of Environmental Contaminants and the US Geological Survey's Status and Trends of Biological Resources Program jointly developed a data management system. The system retrieves and organizes information from contaminants-related, on-line databases maintained by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In addition, the CAP requires that the Primary Investigator acquire data from other sources including interviews with refuge managers, biologists and various experts as well as scientific literature. Potential point and nonpoint contaminant sources and types are inventoried and pathways that these contaminants may follow to reach the area of concern are identified. Then, areas of potential contamination are identified and the contaminant issues described.

The information summarized through the CAP can provide the basis by which land managers select options to reduce contaminant impacts on the species and lands under their stewardship. The CAP also identifies Service-managed areas located downstream or down-gradient from highways, railways, or navigation channels that may be vulnerable to hazardous substance spills. Such areas may then be targeted for baseline data collection which could support future on-Refuge investigations, natural resource damage assessments, or field work.

Last updated: February 13, 2013