Further description:-  Wider impacts / sustainability 

Glossary Entry
The economic, social and environmental effects of contaminated land problems and their management, 
from the perspective of achieving sustainable development.
Further description author's instructions

1 Overview

 

The concept of sustainable development gained international governmental recognition at the United Nation’s Earth Summit conference in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.  Sustainable development has been defined as: “…. Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Brundtland 1987 – see key documents below). Underpinning this approach are three basic elements of sustainable development: economic growth, environmental protection and social progress.

 

At a strategic level, the remediation of contaminated sites supports the goal of sustainable development by helping to conserve land as a resource, preventing the spread of pollution to air, soil and water, and reducing the pressure for development on greenfield sites.  However, remediation activities themselves have their own environmental, social and economic impacts.  On a project-by-project basis, the negative impacts of remediation should not exceed the benefits of the project.

Remediation objectives typically relate to environmental and health risks and perhaps performance of geotechnical / construction measures.  These may form part of a larger regeneration project with social and economic aims, such as attracting inward investment.  What is realisable, and the approaches that can be taken, will be subject to certain site/project specific boundaries, for example the time and money available for the remediation works, the nature of the contamination and ground conditions, and the site location.   The objectives that can be realised by remediation works represent a compromise between desired environmental quality objectives and these site-specific boundaries.  This compromise is reached by a decision making process involving several stakeholders.  This decision making process is often protracted and costly. The objectives set can be said to represent the core of the remediation project[1]. Remediation processes are then commissioned to achieve these core objectives.  Good practice is for a number of remedial alternatives to be selected and compared, which have the potential to meet the core objectives.

 

However, these core objectives typically do not consider the overall environmental, economic and social effects of the remediation work to be carried out, i.e. they do not address its overall value in the context of sustainable development.  For example, the overall environmental value of a project will be a combination of both the improvements desired by the core objectives, and also the wider environmental benefits and impacts of the remediation work, as illustrated in Figure 1.  These wider effects are not considered by the core objectives, and so can be described as “non-core”.  A similar analysis can be made for the overall value to social progress and the overall value for economic growth.  The overall value in the context of sustainable development is the combination of these overall environmental, social and economic values.

 

Figure 1: The Overall Environmental Value of a Remediation Project is the Sum of Environmental Outcome of the Core Objectives and its Non-core Effects

 

In many countries the wider effects of remediation projects are becoming increasingly important in decision making, both as a result of general policy moves to support sustainable development, and as a result of specific pressures, for example:

·             Pressure to consider a broader range of environmental effects - avoidance of transfer of pollutants, and avoidance of nuisance to local neighbourhoods;

·             Pressure to consider a broader range of economic effects - need to demonstrate value for money, and particularly the added value of projects for example for investors and planners; and

·             Pressure to consider a broader range of social consequences - to stimulate greater public and community interest in projects.

 

It is concerns about wider environmental effects (including resource use) that have hitherto been leading the debate about “sustainable remediation”

 

 

2 Wider Economic Effects

 

In terms of the economic element of sustainable development, a remediation project’s overall economic performance is the sum of the economic elements of the core and non-core aims of a remediation project.  The core aims are those fixed by the primary drivers and constraints of the project.  Non-core performance is related to wider economic, economic and social impacts and benefits.  Wider economic effects might include a variety of effects such as effects on: local business and inward investment; local employment, blight and occupancy of the site  Click here for further information.

 

 

4 Wider Environmental Effects

 

In terms of the environmental element of sustainable development, a remediation project’s overall environmental performance is the sum of the environmental elements of the core and non-core aims of a remediation project.  The core aims are those fixed by the primary drivers and constraints of the project.  Non-core performance is related to wider environmental, economic and social impacts and benefits.  Wider environmental effects might include a variety of components within categories such as: aggravation factors, air and atmosphere; water function, ground function; legacy; resource and energy utilisation; and conservation.  Click here for further information.

 

 

4 Wider Social Effects

 

In terms of the social element of sustainable development, a remediation project’s overall social performance is the sum of the social elements of the core and non-core aims of a remediation project.  The core aims are those fixed by the primary drivers and constraints of the project.  Non-core performance is related to wider social, economic and social impacts and benefits.  Wider social effects might include a issues such as: effects of blight on quality of life, community concerns about remedial approach, amenity value of the site and provision of infrastructure.  Click here for further information.

 

 

5  Sustainability Assessment / Appraisal Tools

 

Contaminated land sustainability assessment tools or appraisal tools are instruments to assess the economic, environmental and/or social effects of contaminated land problems and their management

 

Decision support exists to help those who have to take decisions deal with the complex and wide-ranging information involved in contaminated land management. Decision support can be provided as written guidance (flow sheets, model procedures) and/or software. It aims not only to facilitate decision making but to help ensure that the process is transparent, documented, reproducible and hopefully robust, providing a coherent framework to explore the options available.  A “tool” is a document or software produced with the aim of supporting decision making, i.e. something that carries out a process in decision support. Sustainability appraisal describes decision support tools intended to determine the contribution of a particular project or action to achieving sustainable development, considering its economic, environmental and social effects.

 

 

 

Acknowledgement

 

Extracted from: Bardos, R.P., Lewis, A. J., Nortcliff, S., Mariotti, C., Marot, F. and Sullivan, T. (2002)  Review of Decision Support Tools for Contaminated Land Management, and their use in Europe.  Final Report.  Austrian Federal Environment Agency, 2002 on behalf of CLARINET, Spittelauer Lände 5, A-1090 Wien, Austria.  http://www.clarinet.at



[1] While achieving environmental quality objectives will normally underpin any project dealing with contaminated land, the desired quality objectives selected may be driven by a combination of other technical criteria and also third party non-technical perception of risk.

 

Authors
Paul Bardos
r3 Environmental Technology Limited, United Kingdom

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