Further description:-  Tools for Wider Effects 

Glossary Entry
Tools used in the determination of the wider effects of contaminated land or water management or other 
Further description author's instructions

1 General Approach


From a practical viewpoint, decision making for remediation projects tends to be sequential.  Firstly the core objectives of a project are set.  Then a shortlist of remedial approaches capable of achieving those core objectives is considered.  It is typically at this point that non-core or wider impacts and benefits are considered, with a view to selecting the remedial approach which, on balance, has the most benefits and the lowest detrimental impact.  Of course the final selection will depend on cost, hence the current international interest in cost benefit tools for decision making.


It is worth noting in most cases some of these “wider” environmental, economic and social effects will be considered during the “core” of the decision making process.  Which factors are considered as “core” will vary from project to project, depending on the views and needs of the stakeholders who are at the centre of the decision making for that particular project.


Core Objectives:  Core objectives are those remediation objectives that need to be achieved in order to enable regulatory compliance, redevelopment, repair, limitation of liability.  Typically these are to reduce risks to human health, surface and groundwaters, ecosystems and construction, to reduce liabilities, or some combination of all of these factors.  They are reached after consideration of site specific factors and constraints, and taking into account the views of the stakeholders for that site.


Non-core considerations: Non-core considerations are the supplementary effects of, and/or desires for a remediation project that are not addressed by its core objectives.  These can include wider environmental effects (for example use of energy and resources, emissions, waste generation), wider economic effects (regeneration, removal of stigma) and wider social effects and community concerns.



If the undesirable impacts of these remediation processes exceed the desired benefits of the core objectives, the core objectives may need to be re-evaluated.  If proper risk management procedures have been followed, along with a thorough cost benefit analysis and stakeholder consultation, the risks of such a situation arising should be minimised.


At present there are no generally agreed means of carrying out sustainability appraisal for remediation projects.  Although approaches to assessing the wider impacts of individual elements of sustainability (e.g. wider environmental effects) are under development in several countries, a truly integrated approach has yet to be found.  There is some way to go before an international consensus can be reached about sustainability appraisal, in the way that agreement has emerged about the principles of risk assessment and risk management. This is hardly surprising given the complex interplay of economic, environmental and social factors that affect and are affected by a remediation project.


This “core / non-core” model is sequential in its nature, in that the core decisions, which reflect the envisaged use of the site, are made first.  Afterwards the wider effects of the remediation process are considered, and preferably, the reasonable cost option with the lowest wider impacts is selected. While this model describes decision making for sites where a firm end-use is envisaged, it is not appropriate as a decision making framework for the restoration of aquifers.  Furthermore, in situations where end-use is not “fixed”, there may be greater flexibility to consider wider social, economic and environmental effects and risk management in parallel. 


Aquifers typically pass through many land boundaries and may be subject to a number of pollutant inputs.  There is a desire to protect aquifers as a resource, even if they are not in use, or do not present a risk to human health.  In this case the groundwater is both pathway and receptor.


It has been argued that for aquifers the overarching value to society of the remediation effect desired, compared with the likely costs of achieving it, should be the fundamental decision making criterion for aquifer restoration.  In other words sustainable development criteria should be at the “core” of decision making about aquifer remediation. For example, any action to improve an aquifer below an urban area would be likely to be a massive undertaking, and have a direct effect on many site owners.   It may be that in the case of some urban aquifers the resources that would need be spent on remediation, assuming it was technically feasible, are out of all proportion to the value to society of restoring that aquifer as a resource.


In many countries there are large brownfield areas for which there is no immediate economic driver for redevelopment.  Often these are associated with primary and extractive industries that have closed down.  The local communities in these areas can be deprived compared with the rest of the country concerned.  In these situations restoration of land may be supported by Public Sector funds as a means of regenerating local communities in economic terms and alleviating social problems.  Increasingly regeneration of these areas may not be able to rely solely on attracting new economic activity through inward investment.  In these situations land restoration planning can therefore be divorced from firm views of end use.   Then land restoration and sustainable development should become parallel as opposed to sequential considerations.  For example, restoration of land for community use may become a tool for social regeneration, or the remediation process itself could be connected with a return of land to some form of economic re-use, for example biomass production.


For large remediation projects, a formal Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) may be required, as regulated by relevant Directives.  The majority of remediation works do not trigger EIA.


This discussion is largely in the context of selecting a remedial approach once risk management has been deemed necessary.  However assessment of sustainable development “values” may also be used to prioritise projects, or indeed to determine if a risk management action is worth undertaking, compared to the likely economic, environmental and/or social consequences of that risk management action.



2 Techniques employed for sustainability appraisal


Sustainability appraisal describes systems intended to determine the contribution of a particular project or action to achieving sustainable development.  The principal analytical tools and techniques so far used to support this kind of decision making for contaminated land management are:

·             Environmental Risk Assessment (ERA)

·             Multi-Criteria Analysis (MCA)

·             Multi-attribute techniques (MAT)

·             Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA)

·             Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)

These techniques are discussed in more detail below.  Examples of contaminated land management decision support tools applying these techniques are available from the Working Group 2 area of http://www.clarinet.at.


The EC supported CHAINET Project (European Network on Chain Analysis for Environmental Decision Support) has published an extensive report critically reviewing the various analyses available to support environmental management decision making in general, albeit for production systems, summarised in Figure 1.   However its report does indicate that there are perhaps a wider range of techniques that could be applied to contaminated land decision analyses. 


One further technique, not covered in detail by CHAINET, is being increasingly used for contaminated land decision making, particularly for commercial redevelopment projects.  This tool is financial risk management  



2.1  Environmental Risk Assessment


Environmental Risk Assessment (ERA) is the examination of risks that threaten ecosystems, animals, people and other receptors (groundwater, buildings).  The application of risk assessment to contaminated land management is considered elsewhere in EUGRIS



2.2  Multi-Criteria Analysis and Multi-Attribute Techniques


Multi-criteria  Analysis (MCA) is often used in decision making.  MCA is a structured system for ranking alternatives and making selections and decisions.  Considerations used in MCA are: how great an effect is (score) and how important it is (weight).  A general outline of the MCA method is shown in Figure 10.  MCA describes a system of assigning scores to individual effects (e.g. impact on traffic, human health risk reduction, use of energy etc).  These can then be combined into overall aggregates on the basis of the perceived importance (weighting) of each score, as illustrated in Figure 2.  With MCA, ranking and decision making processes can be made very transparent.  MCA is an analytical tool at a higher level, bringing together different considerations in a structured way.  Techniques such as cost benefit analysis and life cycle analysis apply MCA principles in their use of weightings, scoring (valuations) and aggregation.

Figure 1.  Environmental Information for Decision Making (Taken from CHAINET 2000)



Multi-attribute techniques (MAT) for are a refinement of MCA techniques.  The majority of decision situations share important similarities. First, decision-makers evaluate a set of alternatives, which represent the possible choices. The objectives to be achieved drive the design (or screening) of alternatives and determine their overall evaluation. Attributes are the measurements of the objectives and specify the degree to which each remedial alternative matches the objectives. Finally, factual information and value judgements jointly establish the overall merits of each option and highlight the best compromise solution, as illustrated in Figure 3.


Figure 2. A General Outline of Multicriteria Analysis



Figure 3. Information Items in a Multi-attribute model (Beinat 1997 – see key documents )The information items are the multi-attribute profiles (A1,..,Am) allowing measurement of the achievements of the (remedial) alternatives, the value functions (vi , i=1,..,n) representing human judgements, the weights (wi , i=1,..,n), and the multi-attribute value function that associates an overall value with each alternative (v(Aj ), j=1,..,n). In this example, the overall merit of a decision alternative is computed as a weighted sum of single-attribute performances regarding all attributes.



2.3  Cost-Benefit Analysis


Cost-benefit analysis (CBA) is an economic tool for determining whether or not the benefits of an investment or a policy outweigh its costs.  Cost-benefit analysis is discussed elsewhere in EUGRIS, along with narrower determinations such as cost-effectiveness analysis.. (Use the “see also” drop down menu to access).



2.4  Life Cycle Assessment


The aim of life cycle assessment is to determine the environmental consequences of products or services from cradle-to-grave, and is used to study different options to supply a given function.  In the context of contaminated land, such a function might be the remediation of a contaminated site.  The main features of LCA are:


·      LCA follows a cradle-to-grave approach: all processes connected with the function, from the extraction of resources until the final disposal of waste, are being considered.

·      LCA is comprehensive with respect to the environmental interventions and environmental issues considered. In principle[1], all environmental issues connected with the function are specified as resulting from extractions, emissions and other physical interventions like changes in land use.

·      LCA may provide quantitative or qualitative results. With quantitative results it is easier to identify problematical parts of the life-cycle and to specify what can be gained by alternative ways to fulfil the function.


LCA methodology has been standardised by the International Standards Organisation (ISO 14040 series: ISO 14040, ISO 14041, ISO 14042, ISO 14043).   In outline the typical steps or “phases” of LCA are as follows.


1.      Definition of goal and scope.  The definition of the goal and scope exerts a strong influence on the result of LCA and encompasses:  the purpose of the analysis; the function being considered, the boundaries of the analysis, the data quality desired and how the analysis will be validated.


2.      Inventory analysis.  During inventory analysis the process being assessed is broken down into parts, to allow the impact of each unit operation to be separately considered.  This allows a more exhaustive and objective understanding of the overall process.


3.      Impact assessment. The impact assessment is the quantitative and/or qualitative process to characterise and assess the effects of the environmental interventions/use (resource use, emissions) identified in the inventory table. The different categories of impacts are identified and classified by type.   The impacts in each class are then characterised in a way that allows their relative effect on different classes of environmental effect to be assessed, for example with respect to global warming potentials, ozone depletion potentials etc. For quantitative assessments these assessments are then normalised in such a way that they become dimensionless indices, with the same range (e.g. 0 to 1) for each class.   The indices are then capable of being combined, usually with weightings.  These processes rely on a series of value judgements.  While these may be made in the basis of “natural science”, they can also be based on the views of different stakeholders and either implicitly or explicitly will include political or ethical values.


4.      Interpretation includes both the validation of the LCA findings and also the communication of decision making information.



2.5  Financial Risk Assessment and Management


Financial risk assessment and management is an economic tool for determining the financial consequences of a particular course of actions, and optimising its economic benefits as far as possible.  Financial risk management is discussed elsewhere in EUGRIS



3  Examples of Contaminated Land Decision Support Tools Encompassing Sustainability Appraisal


A number of examples of sustainability appraisal tools for contaminated land management using the techniques outlined above are listed on www.clarinet.at.  However, while the integration of risk management and sustainable development considerations is the likely direction of future contaminated land management, widely adopted and recognised methods for this kind of holistic decision making  have yet to emerge.   The CLARINET conceptual strategy: risk based land management (RBLM) includes risk management and some elements of sustainable development.  Individual tools such as “REC”, “The Land Value Balancing System” and “DARTS” (see documents and links below) have been developed and applied in contaminated land management.  However, these tools do tend to reflect national or regional policies and may not be immediately suitable for use outside the countries or context of their development.  The wider adoption of sustainability appraisal in contaminated land management would be greatly facilitated by a European platform for the validation of sustainability appraisal (and indeed all) decision support tools for contaminated land management in Europe.  This should be related to practical decision making in the field and the measurement or estimation other wise of the performance and effects of remediation work.  


A key part of sustainable decision making is the involvement of all concerned stakeholders in a constructive way.  The challenge is very tough, because any decision support must not hamper efficient and cost effective decision making or cause excessive delay.  A major concern of core stakeholders is that, by widening their considerations and their consultees, they run the risk of stalling the decision making process; or making it so difficult that, for instance, brownfield remediation becomes less attractive.






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


Information also taken from:

·             Okx, J.P. and Stein, A. (2000)  An expert support model for in situ soil remediation.  Water Air Soil Pollution 118 357-375

·             Wrisberg, N., Udo de Haes, H.A., Triebswetter, U. and Eder, P. - Editors  (2000) Analytical tools for environmental design and management in a systems perspective.  Report of the CHAINET Project (European Network on Chain Analysis for Environmental Decision Support) to the European Union, October 2000.  Available from: Centre of Environmental Science, Leiden University, P.O. Box 9518, Einsteinweg 2, NL-2300 RA  Leiden, NL-2333 CC, Leiden, the Netherlands.  email: chainet@cml.leidenuniv.nl

[1] Author’s emphasis: in most applications LCA is subject to a number of simplifying assumptions in order to make the analysis practically achievable.  These simplifications can introduce a large degree of subjectivity into the analyses.


Paul Bardos
r3 Environmental Technology Limited, United Kingdom

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