The environmental impacts from remediation can be divided into primary and secondary
impacts. Primary impacts cover the local impacts associated with the on-site contamination,
whereas the secondary impacts are impacts on the local, regional and global scale generated by
the remediation activities. Although two different remediation methods reach the same remedial
target with time, their timeframes can be substantially different and lead to a difference in the local
toxic impacts over time. By including primary impacts in the LCA of remediation this quality
difference is accounted for.
Primary impacts have typically been assessed using site-generic characterization models representing
a continental scale and excluding the groundwater compartment. Soil contaminants have
therefore generally been assigned as emissions to surface soil or surface water compartments.
However, such site-generic assessments poorly reflect the fate of frequent soil contaminants such
as chloroethenes as they exclude the groundwater compartment and assume that the main part
escapes to the atmosphere. Another important limitation of the generic impact assessment models
is that they do not include the formation of metabolites during biodegradation of chlorinated
ethenes, of which particularly vinyl chloride is problematic due to its toxic and carcinogenic
effects. In this study, the assessment of local toxic impacts with the USEtox model was therefore
combined with site-specific reactive transport modeling of the contaminant mass discharge to
groundwater. The exposure via contaminated groundwater was subsequently estimated using
exposure parametres representing the local groundwater body.
The developed methodology for a site-specific impact assessment of primary impacts is tested on
two case localities contaminated with chlorinated solvents. Secondary and primary impacts of a
number of remediation options for the two sites are evaluated and compared. The results show
that especially vinyl chloride, which is an intermediate product during biodegradation of trichloroethene,
contributes significantly to the human toxicity of bioremediation scenarios (86-98 % of
the human toxicity impacts at Site 1). The inclusion of primary impacts in the environmental assessment
of remediation alternatives gives a more complete basis for comparison of technologies
with substantially different timeframes and efficiencies.