New York Field Office
Northeast Region

Technical Assistance to EPA

[1] The primary technical assistance provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) New York Field Office (NYFO) to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is by representation on the BTAG and by directing additional expertise on a wide range of ecological issues to the EPA through our BTAG representative.

evidence of contamination in various species

1 & 2 Examples of cross-beaked birds from chlorinated hydrocarbons, 3.Fish tumor from polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons

What is a BTAG?

Most EPA Regions have established groups of scientists to advise and assist their site managers with ecological studies produced in conjunction with Remedial Investigations, Feasibility Studies, and Removal Actions at Superfund sites.  In general these groups are known as Biological Technical Assistance Groups or BTAGs.

hundreds of waste barrels in Oswego NY

Waste barrels in Oswego, NY

Why BTAGs?

The Comprehensive Environmental Restoration, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), also known as Superfund, and the National Oil and Hazardous Materials Contingency Plan (NCP) mandate that remedial actions at hazardous waste sites protect both human health and the environment. 

In December 1988, the Directors of EPA’s Office of Emergency and Remedial Response and Office of Waste Programs Enforcement issued a memorandum directing all EPA Regional Offices to perform "thorough and consistent" ecological assessments at all Superfund sites.  The memorandum also encouraged the Regions to establish BTAGs since every site presents a unique combination of biological, hydrological, geological, and chemical characteristics.  EPA site managers are responsible for overseeing a wide range of activities and cannot be expected to have expertise in all the necessary scientific areas.  BTAGs serve the function of providing the necessary advice and review of a wide range of ecological information.

Who is on the BTAG?

BTAGs are composed of scientists from a variety of disciplines, including wildlife biology, geology, hydrology, risk assessment, and wetlands science.  The specific composition of each BTAG varies among EPA Regions.  A BTAG Coordinator from the EPA Region maintains regular contact with BTAG members and facilitates the consolidation of information and the transfer of appropriate advice to the site managers either through memoranda or meetings. EPA Region 2, which includes New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, has on its BTAG members from within the EPA Region (including a wetlands scientist, an ecological risk assessor, and a program compliance specialist) and representatives from the Service, NOAA, and the two states (NY and NJ).  The Service, NOAA, and the State are collectively referred to as the Trustees because of their special charge to protect the natural resources for the people of the country (or State).  The representatives from these Trustee agencies provide technical expertise regarding the ecological resources at a Superfund site and in the field of environmental contaminants including ecological risk assessment that may be impacting the ecological resources at or near the Site.  The NYFO representative is a Fish and Wildlife Biologist from the Environmental Quality Branch of the NYFO and serves in a full-time capacity to the BTAG. The presence of individuals from these organizations on the BTAG does not constitute Trustee notification as required by CERCLA.

Cleanup of waste barrels

What does the BTAG Do?

The BTAG functions primarily in an advisory and review capacity, although individual BTAG members, or the agency they represent, may provide additonal services to support the ecological activities.  In the NYFO the BTAG representative not only provides input to the BTAG but in complicated cases can generate additional expert technical assistance from specialists in such areas as endangered species, wetlands impacts, and habitat restoration activities from within the NYFO and from other individuals or groups in the Service, Department of the Interior, or academia.

How big is the Superfund issue?

In New York State alone there are about 100 Superfund sites on the active National Priorities List.  This number is the second largest number for any state with the exception of New Jersey.  Remediation at some of the largest of these sites may cost more than 500 million dollars.  Contamination from these sites impacts numerous small creeks and wetlands throughout New York State as well as major resources such as the Niagara, Hudson, Saint Lawrence, and Grasse Rivers and Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, and Onondaga Lake.  The effect and appropriate remediation of the Superfund sites is the first step in the Service's role of protecting and restoring natural resources at Superfund sites.  After the site is remediated, we still have responsibility as a natural resource Trustee.  The more complete the remedy conducted under Superfund, the less the residual injury that we must deal with under Natural Resource Damage Assessment (see NRDA at this web site for a more detailed description of the issue). 


Where can I get more information regarding Superfund Sites in New York State?

The EPA maintains a current web site at http://www.epa.gov/region02/cleanup/sites/nytoc_sitename.htm

[1] Information regarding the BTAG in this section is taken directly or paraphrased from EPA ECO Update v.1 no.1.

 

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Last updated: February 14, 2013
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