Michigan Environmental Relative Risk Reports 1992-1999

Agency: Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy

In 1986, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency initiated a program to examine environmental risks to U.S. citizens. Specifically, the agency identified critical risks and compared them with each other to develop a hierarchy for remediation and pollution prevention. This hierarchy, based on scientific knowledge, could then be used to design strategies that would yield the most positive results given the funds available. In late 1991, Michigan became one of the first states to develop a similar relative risk program.

The Environmental Relative Risk Program was initiated in September 1991 with the creation of three multi-disciplined committees composed of scientists, citizens, and representatives of governmental agencies, respectively. The purpose of each committee was to identify and evaluate known and suspected environmental problems, decide which problems were of particular concern, and assign a relative rank to each by comparing the risks it posed to the environment and quality of life. The resulting report, entitled, Michigan's Environment and Relative Risk, was presented to the Governor in July 1992.

Twenty-four risk issues were identified and ranked in terms of concern as either "High-High", "High", "Medium-High", or "Medium". The identified issues and their assigned relative risk rankings are presented in Table 1.

Table 1. Identified Relative Risks and Ratings
High-High High Medium-High Medium
Absence of Land Use Planning Point Source Dischargers Contaminated Sites Accidental Releases and Responses
Urban Environment Degradation Air Toxics Deposition Contaminated Sediments Acid Deposition
Energy Production and Consumption Biodiversity/Habitat Changes Hazardous Waste Criteria Air Pollutants
Global Climate Change Indoor Air Pollutants Photochemical Smog Electromagnetic Field
Lack of Environmental Awareness Non-point Source Dischargers Solid Waste  
Ozone Depletion Trace Metals in Ecosystem High Level Radioactive Waste  
Alteration of Surface/Groundwater Hydrology Low Level Radioactive Waste    


Based on a review of relative risk report and additional background papers prepared by the scientists' committee, the 24 risk issues were re-grouped into the categories listed in Table 2.

Table 2. Environmental Relative Risk Task Force Issues
Environmental Education Integrated Land Use Planning Trace Metals in Ecosystem
Urban Recreation Non-point Source Dischargers Biodiversity/Ecosystem Management
Contaminated Sites Air Issues Alteration of Surface/Groundwater Hydrology
Low-Level Radioactive Wastes Accidental Release and Response Indoor Air
Surface Water Sediments Point Source Dischargers Urbanization and Fragmentation of Agricultural/Forest Land
Electromagnetic Fields High Level Radioactive Wastes  
Hazardous, Municipal, Industrial and Solid Wastes Energy Production, Climate Change and Stratospheric Ozone Depletion  


Available Relative Risk Reports: