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Decision SupportOriented Selection of Remediation

Technologies to Rehabilitate Contaminated Sites

Andrea Critto, Lisa Cantarella,` Claudio Carlon,` Silvio Giove, Gianniantonio Petruzzelli,jj and Antonio
Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Venice, Calle Larga S. Marta 2137, I-30123 Venice, Italy
`Consorzio Venezia Ricerche, Via della Liberta ` 5-12, I-30175 Marghera, Venice, Italy
Department of Applied Mathematics, University of Venice, Dorsoduro 3825/E, Venice, Italy
jjNational Research Council, Institute for the Study of Ecosystems, Soil Chemistry Section, Via Moruzzi 1, I-56124 Pisa, Italy
(Received 8 April 2005; Accepted 6 November 2005)
A methodology for selecting remediation technologies is presented as part of a decision support system for the
rehabilitation of contaminated sites. It includes 2 steps: In the 1st step, a pool of suitable technologies is selected within a
technologies database according to their applicability to site-specific conditions; in the 2nd step, the selected technologies
are ranked according to a multicriteria decision analysis (MCDA) approach. The MCDA was applied to allow for a transparent
procedure and for the integration of expert analyses. The methodology was implemented in a previously developed
georeferenced information systembased decision support system for the rehabilitation of contaminated sites and then
applied to a case study (Porto Marghera, Venice, Italy). On the basis of the obtained results, the proposed methodology
appeared suitable to select remediation technologies according to both technical features and requirements of available
technologies, as well as site-specific environmental conditions of the site of concern, such as chemical contamination levels
and remediation objectives.
Keywords: Remediation technologies comparison Multicriteria decision analysis Contaminated sites Decision support
A large number of contaminated sites are disseminated in
over the postindustrialized countries (estimated European
contaminated sites vary from 300,000 to 1.5 million [EC
2002]; on average, 5 contaminated sites per 1,000 inhab-
itants) with expected high financial consequences (e.g.,
overall costs for the remediation of European contaminated
sites range between 59 and 109 billion Euros, according to the
European Environmental Agency [EC 1999]). Criteria and
methodologies for the rehabilitation of contaminated sites are
urgently needed.
In recent years, new regulatory frameworks have been
proposed (Ferguson and Kasamas 1999) that highlight the
fundamental role played by the environmental risk assessment
and call for the implementation of procedures allowing the
comparison of remediation technologies within the decision
process leading to the rehabilitation of a contaminated site
(Ferguson et al. 1998; Vik and Bardos 2003). The best
available technology at sustainable cost is a well-established
criterion for the selection of reclamation technologies. The
choice of best available technologies, however, should not be
based just on scientific and technical considerations because
economic, social, and political aspects need to be taken into
account. The socioeconomic implications behind site requa-
lification, according to well-defined land end uses, heavily
influence the identification of remediation objectives and,
therefore, the choice of most suitable technologies.
The integration of environmental risk assessment and best
available technologies according to land end uses is a difficult
task, especially in the case of so-called megasites, areas of
notable extension (hundreds or thousands of ha) in which
several different sources of contamination are present
simultaneously. Rehabilitation of megasites requires a set of
technologies to be identified, taking into consideration spatial,
temporal, and logistic aspects. Moreover, megasites usually
occupy strategic portions of land, triggering a multidiscipli-
nary approach in which risk analysis, socioeconomic analysis,
and the comparison of remediation technologies need to be
integrated according to a transparent framework.
This work will focus on the issues behind the selection and
comparison of remediation technologies. The main purpose is
to define a site-specific methodology for selecting a set of
remediation technologies applicable to a contaminated site
and to develop a comparative system for these technologies. A
set of technologies is regarded as a combination of
technologies, possibly organized in train technologies and
extended over space and time, able to achieve the remedial
goals defined for the site under examination. Multicriteria
decision analysis (MCDA) is applied to rank remediation
technologies and to develop alternative remediation scenarios
to be offered to decision makers (i.e., stakeholders).
The proposed methodology is included in the decision
support system decision support system for rehabilitation of
contaminated sites (DESYRE), software designed to assist
experts in the rehabilitation of large contaminated sites (i.e.,
megasites; Carlon et al. 2003). A decision support system is
designed to assist the decision maker involved with contami-
nated lands in carrying out specialized analyses and ensuring
reproducible and transparent processes that consider all the
variables involved (Bardos et al. 2003).
Very few decision support systems exist in the field of
remediation technologies selection. Among them, the Cost
Benefit Analysis for Remediation of Land Contamination, by

To whom correspondence may be addressed: marcom@unive.it

Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management Volume 2, Number 3p. 273285
2006 SETAC 273
the UK Environment Agency (UKEA), guides in the selection
of a short list of potential remediation techniques through
MCDA and costbenefit analysis (UKEA 1999).
All the other available resources are mainly searchable
databases, such as the US Environmental Protection Agency
ReachIT (USEPA 2004) or the Remediation Technologies
Screening Matrix by the US Federal Remediation Technolo-
gies Roundtable (FRTR 2002).
The DESYRE system
The structure of DESYRE (Carlon et al. 2003) consists of 5
modules: 1) characterization, 2) socioeconomic analysis, 3)
remediation technologies comparison, 4) risk analysis (RA),
and 5) decision making.
The characterization module, developed according to the
requirement of environmental risk assessment procedures
(ASTM 1998), allows users to define the conceptual model of
the site and to provide information regarding contaminants
distribution and transport through the different environ-
mental media, with georeferenced information system tools
for handling spatial data. The socioeconomic module supports
the selection of the optimal future use of the site. Socio-
economic parameters are inputs of a fuzzy expert system that
generates a composite indicator of suitability for alternative
land uses. The remediation technologies comparison and risk
analysis modules integrate with each other to produce an
effective framework for the selection of cleanup techniques.
The stepwise structure of this framework (Figure 1) allows
the definition of different remediation scenarios: Each
scenario refers to a suitable solution for the rehabilitation of
the contaminated site, encompassing the final land use, the
socioeconomic benefits, a technologies set (with reference to
costs, intervention time, and environmental impacts), and the
associated residual risk.
The final decision-making module provides the description
of alternative remediation scenarios. Technological, environ-
mental, and socioeconomic aspects are described by macro-
indexes that are derived directly from the technological, risk
assessment, and socioeconomic modules, respectively (Carlon
et al. 2003).
Review of remedial technologies
The database created by the FRTR (2002) is universally
recognized (Vik and Bardos 2003) as an exhaustive and up-to-
date source of remedial technologies. It collects information
from studies and remediation actions within the Superfund
Program, and it is continuously updated. Currently, the FRTR
matrix includes 64 technologies divided according to the
treated environmental matrix: solid (soil, sediment, bedrock,
and sludge), liquid (groundwater, surface water, and leachate),
or gaseous (air emission or off-gas treatment). Moreover, the
techniques are considered according to where the operations
take placein situ or ex situ (i.e., ex situ treatments require
the removal of contaminated matrix, in situ treatments do
not)and the adopted containment systemssolutions
meant to prevent or reduce the migration of contaminants
through the ground or subsurface water.
Finally, the FRTR matrix groups the technologies according
to their target pollutants, which are split into 6 categories of
contaminants: Nonhalogenated volatile organic compounds,
halogenated volatile organic compounds, nonhalogenated
semivolatile organic compounds, halogenated semivolatile
organic compounds, fuels, and inorganics.
Review of criteria for the comparison of remediation
The comparison of remediation technologies was con-
ducted by selecting internationally recognized evaluation
criteria proposed by the FRTR (2002), the Organization of
the United Nations (UN 1997), and UKEA (1999).
The set of criteria proposed by FRTR and related to the
technologies evaluation screening matrix introduced in the
previous paragraph includes a series of parameters that allow
a detailed description of the different techniques without
selection or ranking intent.
The UN study indicates criteria similar to those of FRTR
(e.g., overall cost, cleanup time, system reliability and
maintainability), and provides a ranking of the technologies,
which is based on a fixed, nonsite-specific scoring system.
Finally, the UKEA defines a selection procedure based on a
costbenefits analysis approach. It includes analysis of all the
aspects that characterize remediation before and after the
intervention actions. Each selected aspect is scored as a result
of expert judgment on site-specific conditions.
Review of MCDA methods
The MCDA approach is normally used for problems in
which a decision maker classifies or chooses among some
alternatives that are measured by a finite number of criteria or
attributes (Norris and Marshall 1995). For cases in which no
single alternative exhibits the most preferred available value
for all attributes, MCDA is especially useful (Saaty 1980;
Norris and Marshall 1995). This method corresponds to what
happens in the planning phase of a remediation intervention
when the experts have to select 1 or few remediation options
among several cleanup technologies.
The MCDA method can be classified as a single- or
multiple-person decision process. The latter involves a group
of experts or decision makers and is considered a member of
group decision theory. In this case, the MCDA algorithms
have to include suitable consensus measures that show how
much the group of decision makers agree or disagree about
the alternative ranking (Carlsson et al. 1992).
In the DESYRE tool, the comparison of remediation
technologies was designed as a single-person activity, involv-
ing the presence of only 1 expert. In fact, this choice was
suggested by the most probable usage of the software tool, in
which only 1 expert or user at a time has an active role in the
decision process; if more than 1 participates, unanimous
agreement with all judgments is expected. Thus, hereafter,
only single MCDA algorithms will be considered.
According to the specialized literature (Vincke 1992),
single MCDA tools are classified as multiattribute utility
theory (MAUT), outranking and interactive. However, as
discussed in a previous paper (Giove et al. 2006) and reported
by Linkov et al. (2004), the applications of MCDA to
environmental problems are mainly based on MAUT, the
analytic hierarchic process (AHP), and some outranking
methodology (in particular, the Elimination et Choix Tradui-
sant la Realite [ELECTRE] method).
In MAUT methods, the attribute values of each alternative
are aggregated by means of a suitable utility function (or
value functions) to obtain the score of the investigated
alternatives. This approach is based on the hypothesis of a
274 Integr Environ Assess Manag 2, 2006A Critto et al.
rational and consistent decision maker (Bridges et al. 2004) and
implies the existence of both the value functions and a suitable
aggregation operator. Many methods exist to define the value
functions (Keeney 1976), but the description of those method-
ologies is beyond the aim of this paper. Even the aggregation
operator needs to be carefully selected, and as discussed in a
previous paper (Giove et al. 2006), the simplest and most
widely used aggregation function in the MAUT context is given
by the weighted averaging operator. However, it should be
stressed that the choice of a particular aggregation operator
depends on several elements, such as the kind of the problem,
available information, and subjective reasoning of the expert.
As far as the AHP is concerned, it was 1st developed by
Saaty (1980) and widely reviewed and applied in the
literature (Saaty 2000; Ramanathan 2001). The AHP
aggregation algorithm simply computes a linear combination
of the criteria values as weighted averaging operators, making
use of pairwise comparison of alternatives (i.e., for each pair
of attributes, the expert specifies a judgment of how much
more important 1 attribute is compared with another),
Figure 1. Framework of the remediation technologies (RT) comparison and risk assessment (RA) module of the DESYRE decision support system.
Selection of Remediation TechnologiesIntegr Environ Assess Manag 2, 2006 275
allowing a numerical value to be obtained even from
intangible criteria. The pairwise comparison is a robust
method, giving local and global weights that, as verified in
many applications, respect the hidden preference structure of
the user. A main characteristic of the consistency property is
that it implies that a user is coherent if the pairwise
comparisons satisfy the transitivity property (Saaty 1980,
2000). However, given the uncertain characteristics of human
thinking, a limited amount of inconsistency can be accepted.
As discussed in a previous paper (Giove et al. 2006),
despite the great popularity and the large number of AHP
applications, some criticisms are warranted (Barzilai 2001):
primarily, the rank reversal phenomenon and the great
number of comparisons required as the number of alter-
natives increase. Methods are available to solve these
criticisms, including the supermatrix approach and the AHP
network, originally suggested by Saaty (1980), and the
adoption of the absolute mode (Ramanathan 2001). In the
absolute mode, the pairwise comparison is limited only to the
1st level of the hierarchy to obtain the global weights,
whereas for the lower levels, a direct judgment is required by
the user. In so doing, the amount of information required
decreases by 1 order of magnitude (i.e., from N
to N, where
N is the number of data points). Moreover, rank reversal is
avoided because deleting an alternative, or inserting a new
one, does not change the scoring of those remaining (because
they were assigned from a direct judgment, unchangeable by
the insertion or deletion); thus, the ranking will not change.
This method will be described in the methodology section
with particular reference for application to remediation
technologies comparison.
Study area
The proposed methodology was applied to the Porto
Marghera industrial zone, a contaminated megasite bordering
a complex and fragile ecologicalnaturalistic and hydrogeo-
logical transitional environment such as the Venice lagoon.
The Porto Marghera site covers a surface of 3,595 ha, out of
which 479 ha are occupied by canals. The site was originally a
mudflat (so-called barene) that has been raised up ;2 m
above sea level by fill, with material from the dredging of
lagoon canals (Gatto and Carbognin 1981) and waste
production residues, including industrial toxic waste. The
area started to operate at the beginning of the last century.
As for hydrogeology, the site is located over a coastal
multiple-aquifer system subject to tidal effects. By assembling
previously available information (Carbognin et al. 1972;
Critto et al. 2004) implemented by further experimental
investigations, the hydrogeological conceptual model of the
site is shown in Figure 2.
The topsoil is covered by a layer of fill material
contaminated by industrial waste, including red bauxitic
mud, black organic sludge, or both. Below the topsoil, a 1st
impermeable layer is found, consisting of Holocene deposits
of lagoon mudflats and an overconsolidated silt clay layer
called caranto. The 1st impermeable layer is followed by a
semiconfined aquifer, delimited at the bottom by clayey
Pleistocene sediments that constitute the deepest imperme-
able layer (Carbognin et al. 1972).
Chemical contamination was characterized extensively on a
100-m sampling grid. In the topsoil (i.e., the fill material
layer), several classes of pollutants were found: amines,
chlorobenzenes, chloronitrobenzenes, chlorophenols, dioxins,
aliphatic hydrocarbons, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons,
metals, metalloids, and inorganic anions (Venice City Council
2001). In the semiconfined aquifer, the same classes of
pollutants were found.
Metals and metalloids showed the highest concentration
levels and the widest spread of contamination. The soil
samples displayed high concentrations of arsenic (hot spots of
900 mg/kg dry wt at 01 m depth), chromium (hot spots of
4,200 mg/kg dry wt at 04 m depth), cadmium (hot spots of
900 mg/kg dry wt at 34 m depth), copper (hot spots of
3,000 mg/kg dry wt at 34 m depth), mercury (hot spots of
130 mg/kg dry wt at 12 m depth), and lead (hot spots of
26,000 mg/kg at 34 m depth). Moreover, on the basis of the
number of samples that exceeded Italian law (Law Decree
471/99 1999) for acceptable concentration limit (ACL) for
industrial use, widespread contamination was found, espe-
cially for arsenic (117 of 1,392 samples exceeding limits; ACL
20 mg/kg dry wt), cadmium (127 of 1,389; ACL2 mg/kg
dry wt), and mercury (105 of 1,389; ACL1 mg/kg dry wt).
Lead contamination was less widespread (39 of 1,393 samples
exceeding regulatory limits; ACL 100 mg/kg dry wt);
finally, for copper (15 of 1,384; ACL120 mg/kg dry wt) and
chromium (4 of 1,354; ACL 150 mg/kg dry wt), the
contamination appeared to be confined to only 1 hot spot.
Figure 2. Hydrogeological model of the Porto Marghera (Venice, Italy) contaminated megasite. a.s.l. above sea level.
276 Integr Environ Assess Manag 2, 2006A Critto et al.
The proposed methodology consists of 3 main steps: 1)
selecting the remediation technologies, 2) setting comparative
criteria, and 3) ranking the selected remediation technologies
with a comparative procedure.
The 1st step provides a pool of remediation technologies
suitable to the case study; the 2nd step assesses the previously
selected techniques according to several evaluation criteria.
The last step develops a ranking algorithm by MCDA that
allows a comparison and classification of the selected
Selection of remediation technologies
To select the remediation technologies, 2 subsequent
selection filters were applied to the input database of
technologies provided by the FRTR matrix (Figure 3). The
1st filter was based on 2 basic parameters, commercial
availability of the considered technology and the technology
target contaminants overlapping those found in the site under
study. The 2nd filter was concerned with site-specific
parameters (i.e., hydrogeological and physicochemical char-
acteristics of the investigated environmental matrix) affecting
the feasibility of remediation technologies.
At the end of the selection, a pool of remediation
technologies was chosen, including all technologies applicable
simultaneously or subsequently to the study site.
This selection procedure was implemented into the
DESYRE software as a hypertext database document devel-
oped in Microsoftt Word through Visual Basic Macro. It
included 3 interactive tables (A, B, and C) and a character-
ization database, which drive the potential expert in the
aforementioned selection pathway.
The A table (Figure 4) includes the input database of
technologies and groups the cleanup technologies according
to the treated contaminated matrix (i.e., soil, surface water, or
groundwater, emitted off-gas).
Each technology is characterized by target contaminants,
commercial availability, general site characteristics required for
applicability, main benefits and disadvantages or drawbacks,
and the target pollutants found at the site. Moreover, the last
column of the table contains a synthetic judgment or evaluation
Figure 3. Steps applied to the selection of a suitable site-specific technologies
Figure 4. Structures of the A, B, and C tables used sequentially in the selection of remediation technologies.
Selection of Remediation TechnologiesIntegr Environ Assess Manag 2, 2006 277
made by the expert (FAthe technology is fully applicable and
the remediation action does not imply any impediment; AR
applicable with reserve [i.e., the cleanup actions have notable
troubles in 1 of the listed parameters]; NA not applicable
[i.e., the technology shows a specific impediment]).
The B table (Figure 4) includes only the technologies
selected by the expert in the previous table A after
application of the 1st filter (i.e., the technologies marked
FA or AR). Table B is only descriptive and provides the
characterization of the selected technologies according to the
additional criteria of remediation strategy (i.e., extraction,
removal and retrieval, biodegradation, immobilization, de-
struction, and chemical transformation), specific cleanup
effectiveness for the considered contaminant classes, and
capability to be included in train technology treatments.
The C table (Figure 4) lists site-specific parameters that
affect the applicability of the selected technologies: either
related to the treated matrix (e.g., pH, total organic carbon,
hydraulic conductivity, and soil cation exchange capacity) or
related to the target contaminants (e.g., vapor pressure,
solubility). The applicability range values of these parameters
for each technology were obtained by published technical
documents (Los Alamos National Laboratory 1996; NATO/
CCMS 2001; Vik and Bardos 2003).
Finally, the characterization database (not reported here)
includes all the information concerning the geotechnical (e.g.,
soil granulometry) and physicochemical (e.g., soil organic
carbon content) characteristics of investigated environmental
media obtained during the characterization process.
With the use of the characterization database and table C,
the expert can apply the 2nd site-specific filter by identifying
the fit between hydrogeological and physicochemical charac-
teristics of the site, summarized in the characterization
database, with the aforementioned applicability range values
summarized in the 2nd column of table C (labeled Site-
specific criteria that affect the applicability). The software
then prompts the expert for a final applicability judgment or
assessment for all technologies, which is inserted in the 3rd
column of table C (labeled Expert applicability judgment/
assessment). Only the technology marked Applicable will
be selected, which leads to a pool of remediation technologies
actually applicable to the case study.
Setting of comparative criteria set: Macrocriteria and
evaluation matrix
To compare the pool of selected remediation technologies,
the following 6 comparative macrocriteria were defined:
reliability, course of action (i.e., intervention condition),
hazardousness, community acceptability/impacts, effective-
ness, and cost (Figure 5). Each macrocriterion is able to
describe a specific aspect of a cleanup action.
The reliability macrocriterion considers the maintenance
aspects and results obtained by the technology application to
other case studies. The course of action (i.e., intervention
condition) macrocriterion identifies the logistic and technical
aspects related to a remediation action by differentiating
between in situ, ex situ, and off-site technologies and by
considering the possibility of creating a train technology. The
macrocriterion measuring hazard allows assessment of the
potential effects for human health resulting from the
technology application (e.g., effects related to the use of
hazardous reagents or the emission of dust and volatile
substances). With the use of the community acceptability/
impacts macrocriteria, the negative effects on the environ-
ment, as well as the main factors on which depend public
judgment of a particular remediation technology, are eval-
uated. The effectiveness macrocriterion helps the expert to
assess technology performance, which depends on cleanup
time and removal rates. Finally, the cost macrocriterion points
out the parameters on which depend the actual or real costs of
a remediation action (e.g., time, installation and maintenance
cost, need of waste disposal).
Figure 5. Macrocriteria and associated evaluative criteria used for the comparison of remediation technologies.
278 Integr Environ Assess Manag 2, 2006A Critto et al.
Figure 5 reports the evaluation criteria associated with each
macrocriterion. These evaluation criteria were identified from
the review of international approaches (UN 1997; UKEA
1999; FRTR 2002), and each can contribute to the definition
of more than 1 macrocriterion (e.g., cleanup time influences
both effectiveness and cost), as shown in Figure 5. Some of
the selected evaluation criteria are strictly correlated with
technical aspects (i.e., costs, cleanup time, performance,
reliability and maintenance, technology development status,
cleanup operation locations, train technology, hazardous
reagents use, contaminated matrix removal, and residuals
production), whereas other criteria refer to the potential
effects on human health and the environment (i.e., dust and
volatile substances emission, effects on water, and consequen-
ces to soil and community acceptability).
Performance, cost, and cleanup time are the most impor-
tant criteria in the description of a remediation technology
according to costbenefit analysis. Performance is the removal
ratio, expressed as the ratio between the residual (i.e., after
treatment) pollutant concentration in a given matrix and the
initial concentration in the same matrix. Cost gives informa-
tion on the overall cost per treated matrix unit (US$/t of soil
matrix wet weight and US$/1,000 L of water matrix), and it is
strictly related to the removal rates. The costs applied to the
study case were obtained from reviewing case studies with
features similar to those of the analyzed site, so that site-
specific criteria could be introduced (Los Alamos National
Laboratory 1996; NATO/CCMS 2001; OCETA 2001;
USEPA 2001a, 2001b; Vik and Bardos 2003). Finally, cleanup
time is the average time required to clean a site with a specific
technology. According to the USEPA (2001a) approach, all
cleanup times were estimated by referring to standard
conditions, namely 20,000 t of soil and 3,785,000 L of water.
For each evaluation criterion, a qualitative or quantitative
rating was defined as shown in Table 1. This rating scheme
allowed the so-called evaluation matrix to be obtained1 for
each contaminant class found in the site analyzed (see Table 2,
in which the evaluation matrix for inorganics is presented). In
this matrix, evaluation criteria were reported in the columns,
and the selected technologies suitable to treat specific
pollutants were in the rows. The evaluation matrix provides
the input data for the technologies ranking step, described in
the following paragraph.
Comparative procedure and ranking of the selected
remediation technologies
The 3rd step of the proposed methodology, the compara-
tive procedure, aims at obtaining a ranking of remediation
technologies according to the macrocriteria previously pre-
sented. The final classification will allow the experts to create
remediation technologies sets that act as possible remediation
The comparative process is based on a ranking algorithm
that was developed by single-person MCDA tools. Specifi-
cally, the selected MCDA method uses a decision matrix as
the database (Table 7) that summarizes the available raw data
for the decision maker. Each row of the matrix corresponds to
a specific alternative (in the current case, a specific
Table 1. Qualitative and quantitative rating of the evaluation criteria selected for comparing the remediation technologies
Technology development status Consolidated (C) Innovative (I)
(high reliability and
low maintenance)
(average reliability
and maintenance)
(low reliability,
high maintenance)
Residuals production No Yes
Train technology Yes No
Cleanup operation location In situ Ex situ Off site
Contaminated matrix removal No Yes
Community acceptability High Medium Low
Hazardous reagent use No Yes
Dust and volatile
substance emission
No Yes
Effect on waters No Yes
Effect on soil No Yes
Performance (removal rate, %) 0100
Overall cost $/ton for soil $/1,000 L for groundwater
Worse Average Better
Cleanup time (years) Soil in situ .3 31 ,1
Soil ex situ .1 0.51 ,0.5
Groundwater .10 310 ,3
Selection of Remediation TechnologiesIntegr Environ Assess Manag 2, 2006 279
remediation technology), whereas each column corresponds
to a proposed macrocriterion. Accordingly, each element ij of
the matrix represents the judgment of the alternative i with
respect to the macrocriterion j (i.e., the jth attribute value for
the alternative i) and can be expressed in different ways (i.e.,
symbolic, numerical, Boolean).
Moreover, according to the discussion in the Background
section, the selected MCDA method is based on the weighted
averaging operator associated with the absolute AHP to
structure the problem into a suitable hierarchy and to
determine the criterion weights. This choice was motivated
from the aforementioned characteristics, including easy
interpretability of its linear form, user-friendly capability,
probability of low or null interaction among the criteria, and
limited amount of information required.
According to the standard AHP, the absolute AHP is based
on 3 fundamental steps: 1) Structuring the problem with
hierarchy, which allows a complex problemto be divided into a
series of levels of analysis so that each attribute is a member of a
small set of attributes on the same level, all attributes are
related to a single attribute on the level immediately above
them, and the last level is formed by the available alternatives;
2) comparison of judgments, which allows the relative
importance of the variables (attributes or alternatives) belong-
ing to the same level and relative to each of the associated
variables belonging to the upper level to be calculated with the
use of a pairwise comparison method (i.e., for each pair of
attributes, the expert specifies a judgment of how much
more important 1 attribute is compared with another) with
a predefined (and limited) scale, usually the natural scale of
1, 2, . . . , 9 points; 3) analysis of priorities, which leads,
through suitable aggregation tools, to a final ranking of the
alternatives (Saaty 1980; Norris and Marshall 1995).
Moreover, for specific application in the remediation
technologies comparison, in the absolute AHP mode, the
relative importance (i.e., the weight) was calculated with the
pairwise comparison only for the hierarchic level in which the
macrocriteria were included, not for all the levels, as the
relative AHP provides for (i.e., overall goal concerning the
environmental requalification, macrocriteria, evaluation cri-
teria, and technological alternatives). Therefore, for the
overall goal, the relative importance is intended to be the
importance of each macrocriterion relative to the 1st
hierarchic level (i.e., obtaining a ranking of the selected
remediation technologies that facilitates the definition of a
remediation plan for the study case).
In accordance with the general considerations for AHP
reported in the Background section, the absolute AHP was
adopted to avoid both the great number of required compar-
isons of the alternatives and the undesired rank reversal
phenomenon. Thus, the values of the macroattributes for each
alternative were directly assigned by the expert. This process
allows the expert knowledge to be captured and implemented
in a numeric form. In this way, the proposed process can be
considered, at the same time, a support and check tool for the
experts who have to assess the several selected technologies to
obtain different technologies sets.
The overall defined comparative process finally comprised
1) structuring the problem with hierarchy, 2) computing
macrocriterion weights, 3) assessing the technologies with the
use of a judgment matrix, and 4) computing the final score for
each technology.
Structuring the problem in hierarchic levelsThe proposed
structure include 4 hierarchic levels, as shown in Figure 6. The
1st level consists of the final goal (i.e., obtaining a ranking of
the selected remediation technologies to define a remediation
Table 2. Evaluation matrix for inorganic contaminants and the remediation technologies resulting from the selection step.
For legend, see Table 1
treatment Technology
($/t or
$/1,000 L)
Performance (% removal)
technology As Cr Cu Cd Hg Ni Pb Zn
In situ Phytoremediation Average 25 NAV 38 NAV NAV 42 NAV NAV 98 In situ Yes
Average 62 88 90 85 93 NAV 90 89 73 In situ Yes
Better 90 NAV NAV NAV 60 NAV NAV 74 60 In situ No
Ex situ Separation Better NAV NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA Ex situ Yes
Soil washing Better 200 96 93 87 NAV NAV 92 91 98 Ex situ Yes
Better 140 99 99 97 98 98 97 98 97 Off-site No
Other Landfill cap Worse NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA In situ No
Landfill cap
Worse NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA In situ No
retrieval and
off-site disposal
Better NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA Off-site No
As arsenic; Cr chromium; Cu copper; Hg mercury; Ni nickel; Pb lead; Zn zinc; NA not applicable; NAV not available.
I innovative; C consolidated.
280 Integr Environ Assess Manag 2, 2006A Critto et al.
Table 3. Stepwise selection of remedial technologies for inorganic contaminants
Technologies for inorganics from
technologies database (Table A)
Technologies resulting
from the 1st selection
Pool of technologies applicable to the
study case for inorganics category
Treatments for soil sediments and sludge in situ
1 Phytoremediation 1 Phytoremediation 1 Phytoremediation
2 Electrokinetic separation 2 Electrokinetic separation 2 Electrokinetic separation
3 Fracturing 3 Fracturing
4 Soil flushing 4 Soil flushing
5 Solidification/stabilization 5 Solidification/stabilization 3 Solidification/stabilization
6 Vitrification
Treatments for soil sediments and sludge ex situ
7 Chemical extraction
8 Oxidation/reduction 6 Oxidation/reduction
9 Separation 7 Separation 4 Separation
10 Soil washing 8 Soil washing 5 Soil washing
11 Solidification/stabilization 9 Solidification/stabilization 6 Solidification/stabilization
Containment and other treatments
12 Landfill cap 10 Landfill cap 7 Landfill cap
13 Landfill cap alternatives 11 Landfill cap alternatives 8 Landfill cap alternatives
14 Excavation, retrieval, and
off-site disposal
12 Excavation, retrieval, and
off-site disposal
9 Excavation, retrieval, and
off-site disposal
Table 2. Extended
Effects on
Effects on
Dust and
Yes No No No Yes High No Worse I
No Yes Yes No Yes High No Average C
Yes Yes Yes No No Average No Better C
No Yes Yes Yes Yes Average No Better C
No Yes Yes Yes Yes Low Yes Better C
No Yes Yes Yes Yes Low Yes Better C
Yes Yes Yes No Yes Low No Better C
Yes Yes Yes No Yes Low No Better C
Yes Yes Yes Yes NA Low No Better C
Selection of Remediation TechnologiesIntegr Environ Assess Manag 2, 2006 281
plan for the study case); the 2nd level consists of the proposed
macrocriteria, the 3rd level concerns the selected evaluation
criteria, and the 4th level concerns the different available
alternatives (i.e., the selected remediation technologies).
Computing macrocriteria weightsThe 2nd step of the
comparison process is the computing of macrocriteria
weights. According to the AHP method (Saaty 1980), this
is obtained with a pairwise comparison matrix (i.e., Table 5),
in which rows and columns list the proposed macrocriteria.
For each pair of macrocriteria, the expert specifies a judgment
of how much more important 1 macrocriterion is than
another. To specify the pairwise comparison judgments, a
numerical approach was adopted (i.e., the expert answers
each question with a number, as in Attribute A is 3 times as
important as Attribute B) on the basis of the Saaty numeric
scale (Saaty 1980) reported in Table 4. With the use of this
scale, the macrocriteria weights were successively estimated
by applying the eigenvector method (Saaty 1980). Moreover,
the developed procedure allows both ordinal (maximum
minimum transitivity) and cardinal consistency analysis to be
applied, with the aim to avoid intransitive cycles (Kwiesie-
lewicz and Van Uden 2004) and too-low cardinal consistency
(Saaty 1980, 2000).
Evaluating remediation technologies with the judgment ma-
trixThis step evaluates the selected remediation technolo-
gies (i.e., the available alternatives) through the so-called
judgment matrix (i.e., the aforementioned decision matrix).
A specific judgment matrix has to be developed for each
contaminant class. In this matrix (Table 7), the rows
correspond to the selected remediation technologies that are
able to treat a particular contaminant class, whereas the
columns correspond to the proposed macrocriteria, whose
weights were previously calculated. Each element ij of the
matrix represents the score (i.e., expert judgment) of the
technology i with respect to the macrocriterion j. The expert
assigns this score by assessing the rating that the evaluation
criteria, correlated to a specific macrocriteria, assumes for a
selected remediation technology in the aforementioned
evaluation matrix (see Table 2 for inorganics). These judg-
ments (i.e., scores) are expressed according to a numerical
scale (1 sufficient, 2 rather good, 3 satisfactory, 4
good, and 5excellent) that allows several judgment levels to
be explained, while avoiding too-heavy computational efforts.
Also in this step, a consistency check is performed: if an
alternative is dominated by any others, the criteria judgment
has to be coherent, otherwise an alarm is sent to the user.
Ranking algorithmThe last step of the comparative
procedure concerns the definition of the ranking algorithm,
which estimates the final score for each selected remediation
technology. The proposed algorithmis the sumof the products
of the numerical judgment (expressed for each macrocriterion
through the judgment matrix) with the corresponding macro-
criterion weight according to the Equation 1,

where P
is the total scoring associated with the ith
remediation technology, b
is the normalized weight associ-
ated with the jth macrocriterion, v
is the numerical
judgment assigned to the ith alternative (technology) and
Table 4. Saatys (1980) numerical scale applied in the matrix
of pairwise comparison (reported in Table 5)
Intensity of
1 Equally as important
3 Moderately more important
5 Strongly more important
7 Very strongly more important
9 Extremely more important
2, 4, 6, 8 Intermediate values between de-
fined rankings
Table 5. Matrix of pairwise comparison applied to the calculation of macrocriteria weights
acceptability/impacts Reliability
conditions Hazardousness Cost
Effectiveness 1 7 5 7 5 5
Community acceptability/
impacts 1/7 1 1/3 1/3 1/5 1/7
Reliability 1/5 3 1 3 1/5 1/7
Intervention conditions 1/7 3 1/3 1 1/5 1/5
Hazardousness 1/5 5 5 5 1 1/3
Cost 1/5 7 7 5 3 1
Table 6. Macrocriteria weights calculated by the eigenvector
method (Saaty 1980)
Macrocriterion Weights
Effectiveness b
Community acceptability/impacts b
Reliability b
Intervention conditions b
Hazardousness b
Cost b
282 Integr Environ Assess Manag 2, 2006A Critto et al.
correlated with the jth macrocriterion, and L is the number of
macrocriteria considered.
The proposed methodology was applied to the contami-
nated megasite of Porto Marghera for the selection and
comparison of treatment technologies for the removal of
inorganic contaminants present in the surface fill material
layer (Figure 2).
Remediation technologies selection
To obtain a pool of remediation technologies suitable for
the case study, the characterization database was used, and
the A, B, and C table were applied (Figure 4).
The 1st selection filter, following the application of table A
to the 14 remedial technologies proposed by the FRTR matrix
for soil matrix and inorganic pollutants (Table 3, 1st column),
allowed the 12 technologies reported in Table 3, 2nd column,
to be selected. Vitrification was eliminated because it could
not assure any homogeneity of the intervention over the
whole study area; chemical extraction was discarded because
of the high cost of chemical reagents.
The 12 selected technologies were characterized by the
additional criteria reported in table B (Figure 4) and then
were submitted to the 2nd selection filter resulting from the
application of table C (Figure 4). By the matching of site-
specific hydrogeological and physicochemical characteristics
of the surface soil, summarized in the characterization
database, with the applicability range values presented in
the 2nd column of table C (Figure 4), a final remediation
technologies pool was selected, which included 9 technologies
applicable to the case study (Table 3, 3rd column). The
selected pool consisted of both ex situ treatments (i.e.,
separation, soil washing, and solidification/stabilization) and
in situ treatments (e.g., electrokinetic separation, solidifica-
tion/stabilization). Moreover, it included the technologies
suitable for areas with widespread, near-surface, and low-level
contamination (i.e., phytoremediation). Finally, containment
systems (i.e., landfill cap, landfill cap alternatives and
excavation, retrieval, and off-site disposal) were also included
in the pool because they can be applied whenever the
contamination levels, volumes, or both are so high that no
other remediation actions are feasible.
Comparative criteria set: Evaluation matrix
The selected remediation technologies were next subjected
to comparison steps. For the comparative procedure and
ranking algorithm, the qualitative or quantitative ratings
defined for each evaluation criterion (Table 1) were used to
implement the evaluation matrix for the inorganic pollutants
(Table 2) through a specific and suitable software interface. All
the matrix data were inserted according to the most
conservative option (i.e., the worst case, for example, the
average of the highest costs and the lowest performance
obtained by the reviewed study cases with features similar to
Table 7. Judgment matrix for inorganic contaminants and the remediation technologies selected in the stepwise
acceptability/impacts Reliability
conditions Hazardousness Cost
Electrokinetic separation 4 3 4 5 3 3
in situ 4 1 5 4 3 3
Phytoremediation 1 4 1 5 5 4
Separation 4 2 5 4 2 2
Soil washing 5 2 5 4 3 2
ex situ 4 1 5 1 2 2
Landfill cap 1 1 5 3 4 2
Landfill cap alternatives 1 1 4 3 4 2
Excavation, retrieval and
off-site disposal 1 1 4 1 1 2
1 sufficient; 2 rather good; 3 satisfactory; 4 good; 5 excellent.
Figure 6. Hierarchic structure applied in the proposed absolute AHP that was
adopted for the comparison procedure. G
macrocriteria, b
weight, C
evaluative criteria, T
selected remediation technologies.
Selection of Remediation TechnologiesIntegr Environ Assess Manag 2, 2006 283
those of the analyzed site; Los Alamos National Laboratory
1996; NATO/CCMS 2001; OCETA 2001; USEPA 2001a,
2001b; Vik and Bardos 2003).
Comparative procedure and ranking
As previously illustrated in the Methods section, the
comparative procedure consisted of several steps. The results
obtained by the application of each step to all selected
technologies are reported in the following paragraphs.
Computing macrocriteria weightsThe pairwise comparison
matrix was filled in (Table 5) and the macrocriteria weights
were estimated (Table 6) with the use of the Saaty numerical
scale (Table 4) and a specific software interface included in
the DESYRE decision support system. According to Tables 5
and 6, the macrocriteria cost and effectiveness obtained
the highest preference judgments and weights, followed by
the macrocriterion hazardousness. This highlights the
relative importance of technical, economic, and risk consid-
erations within the process for the definition of remedial
scenarios. The macrocriterion community acceptability/
impacts obtained the lowest preference judgment and
weight because of the low relevance given by the expert to
the environmental and social consequences that the remedia-
tion process could cause to the already strongly compromised
context of the industrial area of Porto Marghera.
Technologies evaluation with the judgment matrixOn the
basis of the evaluation criteria rating (Table 1), the evaluation
matrix (Table 2), and the judgment matrix (Table 7), the
selected technologies were evaluated. The assigned scores
(i.e., expert judgments) for each technology and for each
macrocriterion (i.e., attribute) are reported in Table 7. For
instance, soil washing obtained an excellent judgment for
effectiveness and reliability because of the high performance
and reliability and the low maintenance and cleanup time.
However the rather good judgment obtained by soil washing
for community acceptability/impacts and cost reflects the
rather low community acceptability (normally correlated
with ex situ treatment) and the high cost.
Ranking algorithmUsing the macrocriteria weights re-
ported in Table 6 and the assigned scores reported in Table 7,
Equation 1 (in the Methods section) was applied and a final
scoring for each technology was estimated, thus obtaining the
remediation technologies ranking (Table 8).
Soil washing was the technology with the highest ranking: It
is an effective solution to treat soil contaminated by metals
and metalloids (even for high concentration levels), and it is
able to treat large amounts of soil. The 2nd option, electro-
kinetic separation, is a suitable in situ solution for hot spots
(with metal concentrations from a few parts per million to
tens of thousands of parts per million). The lowest score,
assigned to landfill cap alternatives and excavation, retrieval,
and off-site disposal, reflects the common features of these
remedial options: no reduction, only a containment, of
contaminated soil is obtained. In addition, they present a high
hazardousness level because of possible percolation into
groundwater or release of volatile compounds into the
atmosphere. They usually are adopted when no other
remediation technologies are technically or economically
A methodology for selecting and comparing a set of
remediation technologies and for supporting the definition
of suitable site-specific remediation scenarios was developed.
The proposed selection and comparative procedure is user-
friendly (i.e., organized on specific tables and matrices
integrated into a suitable software interface, which interacts
with the experts), transparent (i.e., has stepwise traceability
of any selection and comparison), and interdisciplinary (i.e.,
the framework integrates technological, environmental, and
socioeconomic knowledge). The integration of guidelines and
criteria shared by the international scientific community gives
solidity and reliability to the entire process.
Finally, the proposed procedure, through the integration of
software modules, expert knowledge, and professional judg-
ment, plays a key role within the DESYRE software
The integration of technologies selection with other aspects
of the remediation process in a single tool is the distinctive
feature of DESYRE compared with other available tools. In
fact, the other few decision support systems and existing
databases provide the user with the selection of suitable
remediation technologies, but DESYRE includes this func-
tionality in a more general framework for remediation of large
contaminated sites while considering socioeconomic, risk, and
environmental impact aspects.
Moreover, DESYRE technologies selection through MCDA
methodologies is based on a wide variety of criteria,
encompassing not only cleanup time and cost, but also
community acceptability/impacts, performance, reliability/
Table 8. Ranking of the remediation technologies selected for soil matrix and inorganic contaminants
Rank Technology Scoring
1 Soil washing P
2 Electrokinetics separation P
3 Solidification/stabilization in situ P
4 Separation P
5 Solidification/stabilization ex situ P
6 Phytoremediation P
7 Landfill cap P
8 Landfill cap alternatives P
9 Excavation, retrieval, and off-site disposal P
284 Integr Environ Assess Manag 2, 2006A Critto et al.
maintenance, location of cleanup operations, and effects on
waters and soils. In this respect, DESYRE supports a fully
integrated and complete decision process for site remediation.
AcknowledgmentWe thank Manuela Samiolo and Stefano
Silvoni for assistance in analyzing data. This work and the
DESYRE project were funded by the Italian Ministry for
University and Scientific Research.
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