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Environ Sci Technol. 2010 Dec 1;44(23):9163-9. doi: 10.1021/es102007s. Epub 2010 Nov 5.

Environmental impacts of remediation of a trichloroethene-contaminated site: life cycle assessment of remediation alternatives.

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  • 1Department of Environmental Engineering, Technical University of Denmark (DTU), DK-2800 Lyngby, Denmark.


The environmental impacts of remediation of a chloroethene-contaminated site were evaluated using life cycle assessment (LCA). The compared remediation options are (i) in situ bioremediation by enhanced reductive dechlorination (ERD), (ii) in situ thermal desorption (ISTD), and (iii) excavation of the contaminated soil followed by off-site treatment and disposal. The results showed that choosing the ERD option will reduce the life-cycle impacts of remediation remarkably compared to choosing either ISTD or excavation, which are more energy-demanding. In addition to the secondary impacts of remediation, this study includes assessment of local toxic impacts (the primary impact) related to the on-site contaminant leaching to groundwater and subsequent human exposure via drinking water. The primary human toxic impacts were high for ERD due to the formation and leaching of chlorinated degradation products, especially vinyl chloride during remediation. However, the secondary human toxic impacts of ISTD and excavation are likely to be even higher, particularly due to upstream impacts from steel production. The newly launched model, USEtox, was applied for characterization of primary and secondary toxic impacts and combined with a site-dependent fate model of the leaching of chlorinated ethenes from the fractured clay till site.

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