Comparison of approaches for assessing sustainable remediation of contaminated sites

Gitte Lemming Søndergaard, Philip John Binning, Poul Løgstrup Bjerg

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It has been estimated that there are approximately 2.5 million potentially contaminated sites in Europe. Of these, approximately 340,000 sites are thought to be contaminated to a degree that may require remediation (Joint Research Center, 2014). Until recently, remediation was considered to be inherently green or sustainable since it removes a contaminant problem. However, it is now broadly recognized that while remediation is intended to address a local environmental threat, it may cause other local, regional and global impacts on the environment, society and economy. Over the last decade, the broader assessment of these criteria is occurring in a movement toward ‘sustainable remediation’. This paper aims to review the available methods for assessing the sustainability of remediation alternatives.

Sustainable remediation seeks to reduce direct contaminant point source impacts on the environment, while minimizing the indirect cost of remediation to the environment, society and economy. Here we present and compare the available tools and methods for assessing the sustainability of remedial solutions and discuss some of the key issues and future challenges. The aim of a sustainability assessment is to compare the sustainability of two or more remedial solutions for a contaminated site. A sustainability assessment does not provide an absolute measure of whether remediation of a specific site is sustainable. Instead it provides a relative measure which can be used to select the most sustainable solution from amongst a number of defined remedial scenarios.

Results of the review show that most approaches use multi-criteria assessment methods (MCA) to structure a decision support process because it allows the combined assessment of criteria which may be either quantitatively or qualitatively assessed. Different combinations of environmental, social and economic criteria are employed, and are assessed either in qualitative or quantitative forms with various tools such as life cycle assessment and cost benefit analysis. Stakeholder involvement, which is a key component of sustainable remediation, is conducted in various ways. Some approaches involve stakeholders directly in the evaluation or weighting of criteria, whereas other approaches only indirectly consider stakeholder preferences.

This study has reviewed available methods for assessing and comparing the sustainability of contaminated site remediation alternatives. It is concluded that MCA methods are very useful when comparing remediation alternatives, since they allow for a joint assessment of many types of indicators; however the available tools and methods differ substantially, for instance in their selection of indicators, criteria evaluation methods, and approaches to stakeholder involvement and uncertainty analysis. Further work is needed in order to test the assessment approaches for real case studies, since to date only few documented case applications have been published. The presentation will give specific examples of approaches ranging from more qualitative assessments to more quantitative assessments of criteria.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication14th International Conference on Sustainable Use and Management of Soil : Book of abstracts
Place of PublicationLyon, France
Publication date2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Event14th International Conference Sustainable Use and Management of Soil, Sediment and Water Resources - Lyon, France
Duration: 26 Jun 201730 Jun 2017
Conference number: 14


Conference14th International Conference Sustainable Use and Management of Soil, Sediment and Water Resources


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