CE397: Environmental Risk Assessment
Department of Civil Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin
Spring Semester, 1998

Course Content
Term Project
Course Outline

Term Projects

Final Exam

Useful Websites for Environmental Risk Assessment

Lecture Listing

1. Introduction to Environmental Risk Assessment
2. Fundamentals of Probability and Statistics
3. Transport Processes
4. Transfer Processes
5. Experiences in Environmental Risk Assessment
6. A Regulatory Perspective for Risk-Based Decisions for Corrective Action
7. Water pollutant sources
8. Developing a Site Conceptual Model
9. Atmospheric Transport and Exposure
10. Atmospheric Transport Modeling
11. Indoor Air
12. Focusing on Risk-Based Decisions in Corrective Action
13. Risk Assessment: Dose Response and Target Level Calculations

Exercise Listing

1. Statistical Analysis of Environmental Data
2. Transport and Transfer Processes
3. Developing a Site Conceptual Model
4. Atmospheric Modeling
5. Subsurface Modeling and PCL Calculations
Setting up Your Home Page


Unique Number: 13700

Meeting time/place: TTh 2:00 - 3:30 CPE 2.210


Richard L. Corsi (ECJ 8.208; phone 471-3611 or 475-8617; corsi@mail.utexas.edu)

Office hours: TTh 3:30 - 5:00 p.m. (or by appointment)

David R. Maidment (ECJ 8.602; phone 471-4620 or 471-0065; maidment@mail.utexas.edu )

Office hours: TTh 3:30 - 5:00 p.m. (or by appointment)

Textbooks: There is not a required textbook for the course. However, the instructors are currently in the process of obtaining copies of several references that will be useful to students during the completion of term projects. Additional reading assignments may be distributed during lecture.

Prerequisites: Graduate standing or consent of instructor.

Course Content:
The course will cover topics relating to characterizing source areas, linking fate and transport mechanisms, evaluating exposure pathways and applying toxicology data to evaluate environmental risk in a variety of differing contexts. The methods to be presented are applicable to all types of environmental restoration and protection engineering problems. The focus will be primarily on human health risk related to both chemical and radiological release scenarios. The science of risk assessment has been evolving for the past 15 to 20 years. It is an intersection of many scientific disciplines. One of the challenges of this course for students will be to evaluate information and processes that do not all originate from familiar engineering design models.

The process that will be utilized to frame the topics and discussions of this course is that the risk associated with a chemical or radionuclide can be quantified when the following elements are known:

These elements are quantified in light of uncertainty analysis, model validation, and communication of results and public participation (Till, 1996).

The students will be required to critically review a variety of materials throughout the course. Specific examples include current UT research findings, EPA publications on the risk assessment process and journal publications. The class meetings will be a combination of faculty and guest lectures and group discussion.

Course Objectives:

The objectives of this course are to provide students with knowledge related to (1) the broad field of environmental risk assessment, (2) the important processes that affect the risk associated with a chemical or radionuclide, (3) general steps involved in the risk assessment process, including statistical characterization of observed data, and (4) several tools that can be used in defining environmental risks, particularly as related to human health. Students should also develop an appreciation for the limitations and associated uncertainties associated with environmental risk assessment.





Students will be evaluated based on class participation, homework assignments, a midterm exam, a term project, an in-class presentation of the student's term project and a final exam. A breakdown of the evaluation process is provided below:

Homework: 10%
Term Project:
    Written report: 30%
    Oral presentation: 10%
Midterm Exam: 20%
Final Exam: 30%


Midterm Exam: Thursday, March 12 (in class)

Final Exam: Wednesday, May 13 (7 to 10 p.m. - room to be announced)

Special Notes:

Course/Instructor Evaluation Plan: Course/Instructor evaluation forms will be distributed during one of the final two lecture periods. A student within the class will be asked to distribute and collect the evaluation forms, and to return them to the Department of Civil Engineering office on the 4th floor of ECJ Hall. Professors Corsi and Maidment also encourage students to speak to them during the course of the semester, and are open to suggestions related to the course.

"The University of Texas at Austin provides upon request appropriate adjustments for qualified students with disabilities. For more information, contact the Office of the Dean of Students at 471-6259, 471-4241 TDD"


Term project

The purposes of the term project are:

(1) to enable you to perform an environmental risk assessment of a particular region or problem.

(2) to provide experience in the formulation, execution and presentation of original research, including oral and written presentation of results.

(3) to produce a report in html on the world wide web that will be informative to you and to your classmates.

The steps in carrying out the project are:

(1) Prepare a 1-page proposal in html on your web site by Thursday Feb 12 specifying the objective of your project and outlining how you plan to go about executing it. Notify the instructors by email that your proposal is available and you will receive a response by email containing an assessment of the scope of work that you propose. After making any revisions in your proposal that seem necessary in the light of this assessment, this proposal defines the scope of your term project.

(2) Have a progress report presented on your web page by Thursday Mar 24. You are expected to make some progress by mid-semester but the main effort on your term project will come after Spring Break once you've learned more about the methods in the course.

(3) Present a final report orally in class near the end of the semester (you will have about 10 minutes for your presentation) and present your term paper in html on your web page by the last day of classes (May 7). The written report will normally be about 15-20 pages long. It will include any plots and maps you made as a result of doing your project. You can see term papers done by students in the GIS in the GIS Term Paper Library.

If you would like to work in a group to pursue a term project, that is fine, but you must carry out a particular section of the project on which you will present your oral and written report.

Course Outline

Introduction to environmental risk assessment (Maidment, Jan 20)

Fundamentals of Probability and Statistics (Maidment, Jan 22) Transport Processes (Corsi, Jan 27) Transfer Processes (Corsi, Jan 29) Experiences in Environmental Risk Assessment (Guest Lecture by John Till, Feb 3)

The Regulatory Context of Risk Assessment (Guest Lecture by Jim Rocco, Feb 5)

Review of Homeworks 1 & 2 (Maidment/Corsi, Feb 10)

Water Pollution Sources (Maidment, Feb 12)

Site Conceptual Model for Exposure Pathway Analysis (Hay-Wilson, Feb 17) Transport and Fate of Chemicals in Air (Corsi) Review for Midterm Exam (Mar 10)

Midterm Exam (Mar 12)


Focusing on Risk-Based Decisions in Corrective Action (Lesley Hay Wilson) (Mar 24)

Transport and Fate of Chemicals in Soil and Groundwater, Continued (Maidment) Regional Mass Balances and Cross-Media Transfers (Maidment, Mar 31)

Applied Toxicology (Corsi and guests)

Estimating Uncertainties (Gilbert, Apr 14, 16) Public Involvement and Communicating Risks (Hart, Apr 21)  Regulatory Contexts for Risk Assessment (guest lecturer, Apr 23 ) Term Project Presentations (students, Apr 28, 30, May 5, May 7)

Final Exam: Weds May 13, 7-10PM




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