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Journal of Cleaner Production 162 (2017) 1157e1168

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Incorporating life cycle assessment with health risk assessment to

select the greenest cleanup level for Pb contaminated soil
Deyi Hou a, *, Shengqi Qi a, Bin Zhao a, Mark Rigby b, c, David O'Connor a
School of Environment, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China
Marine Science Institute, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106, USA
Parsons, 10235 South Jordan Gateway Suite 300, South Jordan, UT 84095, USA

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: Green and sustainable remediation (GSR) has emerged as one of the most important pioneering di-
Received 1 January 2017 rections in the environmental remediation eld. The GSR concept calls for maximizing the net envi-
Received in revised form ronmental benet (NEB) by taking into account not only the environmental benet, but also the life cycle
4 June 2017
environmental cost of remediation operations. However, existing literature to date has not examined
Accepted 15 June 2017
Available online 16 June 2017
how cleanup levels may affect the NEB. In this paper, we proposed a framework that combines life cycle
assessment with health risk assessment to derive cleanup levels for remediating contaminated land. This
Handling Editor: Yutao Wang method goes beyond the traditional approach, which focuses on acceptable risk levels to site users. It
takes into account the number of potential receptors, as well as life cycle secondary environmental
Keywords: impacts, in order to select the greenest cleanup level which maximizes the NEB. A case study was
Green remediation conducted using this framework for a school site with Pb contamination. In comparison with the reg-
Sustainable remediation ulatory guidance value of 255 mg/kg applicable at the time of project implementation, the newly selected
Human health risk assessment optimum cleanup level of 800 mg/kg could increase the NEB by 3%, while reducing economic costs by
Life cycle assessment
36%. The study indicated that as the cleanup level became more stringent, the detrimental secondary
Soil contamination
impacts of remedial operations increased exponentially, whilst the benecial primary impact tailed off
with diminishing returns. It also showed that more stringent criteria would lead to the cleanup of more
widespread areas contaminated by diffusive sources rather than point sources. Overall, the study
conrmed our hypothesis that an optimum cleanup level exists when considering both environmental
benet and environmental cost, and the greenest cleanup level could be quantitatively determined by
calculating NEBs with the proposed framework.
2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction green and sustainable remediation (GSR) concept has been

adopted by various governments and industrial organizations (Hou
Soil contamination represents a serious threat to public health, and Al-Tabbaa, 2014; Hou et al., 2016b; Prior, 2016). This GSR
and soil remediation is needed at numerous locations globally. In movement encourages decision makers to maximize net environ-
the United States (US), it was estimated that approximately mental benet (NEB) when choosing remediation alternatives
294,000 contaminated sites require cleanup (USEPA, 2004); in (AFCEE, 2010; Ellis and Hadley, 2009; ITRC, 2011b). In doing so, one
Europe, the European Environmental Agency (EEA) estimated that must not only reduce the health risk to site users, but also minimize
EEA member countries have 2.5 million potentially contaminated the environmental costs, including both direct detrimental envi-
sites (EEA, 2014); in China, a national soil quality survey suggested ronmental impacts during remediation operation, and indirect
that approximately 16.1% of the nation's land was polluted (MEP, detrimental environmental impacts during material and energy
2014). In an effort to accelerate the cleanup of contaminated sites acquisition and waste disposal associated with remediation.
and to promote sustainable means in remediation operations, the The choice of cleanup level can have a profound effect on the
health risk reduction benet, as well as the environmental cost.
However, existing literature has rarely examined how choosing
various cleanup levels may affect the NEB of remedial alternatives.
* Corresponding author.
Heavy metal contamination, particularly Pb contamination, can
E-mail address: (D. Hou).
0959-6526/ 2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
1158 D. Hou et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 162 (2017) 1157e1168

derive from point sources, such as industrial operations, and non- 2. Background
point sources, such as surface runoff and atmospheric deposition
(Markus and McBratney, 2001). Consequently, Pb contamination is 2.1. Pb contamination, toxicity, and remediation
wide spread, e.g. 1.5% of soil in China is contaminated by Pb (MEP,
2014). Therefore, this type of contaminated land particularly The toxic effects of Pb include neurotoxicity, developmental
needs a well informed decision making process when choosing a effects, anemia, kidney toxicity, hypertension, and sterility
cleanup level. (McQueen, 2010). Ingestion of Pb within paint chips, dust, soil, and
Traditionally, remediation practitioners have used health risk water may result in elevated blood Pb levels, causing adverse health
assessment (HRA) as the main decision-making tool in choosing effects such as slow cognitive development in children. Lead
cleanup levels (Swartjes, 1999). Risk communication has also been poisoning is considered the foremost environmental health threat
a main theme of public engagement (Prior et al., 2014). A HRA to children by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
identies a chemical hazard, its dose-response relationship, expo- (CDC) (Patrick, 2006). Historically, lead was used in many com-
sure pathways, and subsequently estimates the probability of mercial products, such as gasoline, paint, pesticides, ammunition,
adverse health effects in humans who may be exposed to toxic shing weights, water pipes and components, cosmetics, ceramics,
chemicals in the environmental media (e.g. soil, air, water) (Covello and even as a sweetener in food. Which has resulted Pb contami-
and Merkhoher, 2013). The HRA method is well established and nation being prevalent in the environment. The U.S. Department of
robust; however, it has shortcomings by not truly reecting all Housing and Urban Development estimated that approximately 38
sustainability considerations in remediation. HRA does not take million homes in the United States contained lead-based paint
into account the number of people who are exposed, and it does not (Patrick, 2006). Pb is also a major constituent of concern for haz-
take into account adverse health effects associated with a reme- ardous waste sites. For example, in the US Superfund program, Pb
diation operation's upstream and downstream processes. There is a was identied as the most frequently found constituent of concern,
lack of quantitative tools to comprehensively account for such being listed at 1274 out of 1770 sites (ATSDR, 2015). The US phased
externalities, which could potentially result in undesired conse- out leaded gasoline between 1973 and 1995, and removed Pb from
quences if decision makers heavily rely on HRA in deriving cleanup paint in 1978, which has helped to lower Pb blood level levels
goals. For instance, to reduce the cancer risk posed to one person among the US population (Patrick, 2006). However, a large amount
living at a contaminated site from 104 to 106 may lead to the of Pb is still being used, e.g. the US produced 450,000 tons and
excavation, transport, and treatment of tens of thousands of tons of consumed 1.5 million tons of Pb in 2003 (Levin et al., 2008), posing
slightly contaminated soil, which may cause the emission of large a challenge for pollution prevention and control. In 2011, the eco-
quantities of toxic substances such as heavy metals, benzene, nomic cost associated with child Pb exposure was estimated to be
toluene, volatile organic compounds (VOC), sulfur dioxide, and oil as much as 1.2% of world GDP (Attina and Trasande, 2013).
into air, water, and soil at other places due to raw material and Some survey data have indicated that Pb contaminated soil is a
energy acquisition, equipment acquisition and usage, trans- primary source of Pb exposure in certain regions (Levin et al., 2008).
portation, construction, and waste disposal. The NEB may be none For instance, in 2004, the state of Arizona found that soil was the
or negative in such an extreme case. most commonly identied proximate exposure source (24%), fol-
Due to concerns in the GSR movement of risk transfer across lowed by paint (17%) and dust (15%) (Arizona Department of Health
geographic boundaries and crossing generations in time span, re- Services, 2005). The remediation of Pb contaminated soil is
searchers and practitioners have increasingly utilized life cycle important in meeting the CDC's goal of further lowering the blood
assessment (LCA) or streamlined versions of LCA (e.g. environ- level in children. Typically, one of three types of remediation
mental footprint analysis) as decision-making support tools methods are used to achieve cleanup: 1) excavation and off-site
(Beames et al., 2015; Hou et al., 2016a). LCA results are usually used disposal; 2) on-site containment with a barrier; and 3) in-situ
to compare different remediation technologies and to select the stabilization to reduce bioavailability. Traditionally the former
greenest technology for a given remedial objective. However, to two methods are most widely used, but recently researchers are
our knowledge, LCA has not been used to select the greenest increasingly interested in bioavailability based remediation
cleanup level. In this study, we hypothesized that the cleanup level methods (Henry et al., 2015).
established using a traditional HRA method does not necessarily Pb contamination is wide spread and remediation is required at
correspond to the maximum NEB. We proposed that the combi- many sites; however, there is no consensus on what the optimum
nation of LCA and HRA can render a more robust decision making cleanup level is. An analysis of over 400 worldwide regulatory
process for setting cleanup levels than HRA alone. Our literature guidance values for soil contamination revealed that thresholds for
research suggests that researchers have combined LCA and risk Pb ranged from 0.78 mg/kg to 3600 mg/kg, and most threshold
assessment in assessing environmental impact in a variety of con- values are within the rage of 40 mg/kg and 500 mg/kg (Jennings,
texts (Harder et al., 2015), such as building energy conservation 2013). It should be noted that these are regulatory guideline
(Ayoub et al., 2015), nano-materials production (Barberio et al., values, and not necessarily cleanup goals used in remediation. Site
2014), and mineral waste reuse (Benetto et al., 2007). Such inte- specic cleanup goals are usually also dependent on soil properties
gration can provide a more holistic assessment results. Due to the and hydrogeological characteristics. The Toxic Substances Control
difference in both the context and aims, the framework for incor- Act (TSCA) of the US specied an enforceable standard for Pb in soil
porating LCA and risk assessment in existing literature is not at 400 mg/kg (ITRC, 2005). Most state governments in the US also
directly applicable to the combination of LCA and HRA in deriving use 400 mg/kg as a risk-based screening value for Pb (ITRC, 2005).
cleanup levels. The main objective of this study is to establish a California has a voluntary soil Pb cleanup level of 80 mg/kg for
framework to combine LCA and HRA in deriving soil cleanup levels residential areas; and the Washington State has a mandatory soil
that can maximize the NEB of remediation operations, and to test cleanup standard of 250 mg/kg for residential areas (Henry et al.,
the framework with a case study. Pb contamination was selected as 2015). Due to the existence of wide-ranging regulatory guidance
the study object because Pb is among the most widely found soil values for Pb contamination, setting up a suitable cleanup level has
contaminants, due to its extensive usage in gasoline additives, paint become a challenge. The aim of this study is to illustrate how the
pigments, and lead acid batteries (Lopez et al., 2015). proposed framework may be used to quantitatively select the
greenest cleanup level under a site specic context.
D. Hou et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 162 (2017) 1157e1168 1159

2.2. Case study description Table 1

Classication of land use types and exposure scenarios at the school site.

2.2.1. Site background Type of land use Exposure scenarios

The site was located in a major metropolitan area in Southern Type A: Football/soccer eld; softball/ Bare soil accessible. Exposure occurs
California. The area surrounding the site was used for a mixture of baseball eld; grassland; playground during daily activities.
industrial, commercial, and residential uses. Soil beneath the site (unpaved)
was typical of sediment in a ood plain depositional environment: Type B: Roadside tree planting; Exposure during re-planting, or by
landscape around buildings occasional student play activity
unconsolidated interbeds of ne-grained sand, non-plastic silt, and
Type C: Buildings Ground paved. Exposure only occurs
clay. Due to historical industrial operations of iron and steel casting/ during intrusive/soil disturbing
foundries the site soil had been contaminated by a variety of construction work. Heavy construction
organic pollutants and heavy metals. The site was being redevel- initially, rarely maintenance involving
intrusive work
oped to build a high school, thus requiring site cleanup. This study
Type D: Access road; Parking lot; tennis Similar to Type C, but light construction
focused solely on the areas of Pb contamination. More information court; playground (paved); lunch work initially, regular maintenance
about the site is included in the Supporting Information. The pre- shelter involving intrusive work
sent study has extensively used existent project data from the State
of California (, however, it
should be noted that the HRA and LCA presented are hypothetical 3. Methods
and purely for scientic research purposes, thus the analysis pre-
sented here does not reect the actual decision making process. 3.1. General framework

HRA is a well-established method that is widely used to derive

cleanup level for soil contamination. For contaminated sites where
2.2.2. Remediation technology humans are the most sensitive receptor and human health is the
A variety of remediation technologies may be used to deal with primary remediation driver, HRA is used to derive the risk that site
Pb contaminated soils. Containment technologies such as asphalt users will develop cancer or other adverse noncancerous health
capping may be combined with institutional controls to reduce effects from site-related exposures. The contaminant concentration
human health exposure. Solidication/stabilization (S/S) may be corresponding to an acceptable risk level is then established as the
used to reduce the mobility of lead contaminants (Yin et al., 2006). cleanup level. For carcinogens, the acceptable risk level may span
Soil washing can be used to remove lead contaminants from the two orders of magnitude (i.e., 104 to 106) as set forth in US law,
coarse fraction of the soil (Dermont et al., 2008). Excavation and off- posing a challenge to decision makers within regulatory agencies.
site disposal can be used to completely remove the contaminants Where regulators intend to render more stringent environmental
from the site. Based on a balanced review of effectiveness, imple- protection (due to either a commitment to strengthen environ-
mentability, cost, and several other criteria, it was considered mental protection or a lack of expertise in making informed de-
appropriate to use a combination of excavation, S/S of hazardous cisions), an arbitrary blinded threshold of 106 cancer risk may be
waste exceeding leaching threshold criteria, and off-site disposal. used. LCA is another decision making support tool that has been
Soils containing Pb concentrations above the cleanup level were increasingly used in the remediation eld. Remediation LCA has
excavated. After excavation, conrmation samples were collected at often been used to estimate the cradle-to-grave environmental
the bottom and sides of each excavation area to verify the complete impact of remediation operations for a given remediation scenario
removal of contaminated soil. The excavated soil was stockpiled, and a pre-determined cleanup level. The quantication results are
sampled, and analyzed for waste characterization. For the soils that then used to compare different remediation technologies and rank
were characterized as hazardous waste, impacted soil was hauled their sustainability score.
to an out-of-state hazardous waste landll, where S/S was con- In order to combine HRA with LCA to choose optimum cleanup
ducted by adding Portland cement to reduce the leaching potential. levels, we proposed a new framework (see Fig. 2). In this frame-
Non-hazardous soils were transported to a local sanitary landll for work, a set of possible cleanup levels are rst selected. The selection
disposal. The excavated areas would be backlled with overburden of possible cleanup levels would be site specic, with the following
soil and imported clean ll materials. considerations being taken into account: 1) the lowest cleanup
level should be no less than background level; 2) the range should
be moderate, e.g. approximately 2 orders of magnitude and ideally
centered around a regulatory guideline value. Then two parallel
series of tasks are conducted. On the one hand, for each specic
2.2.3. Post-remediation site use and simulated cleanup level cleanup level, the post-remediation land use scenarios are classi-
The site was being redeveloped to build a high school. The ed, corresponding residual levels of contaminant for each area are
proposed footprint of the site was classied into four types: Types determined, exposure risk for each type of land use is estimated,
A, B, C, and D (see Table 1) which reects descending health risk. and nally the health benet associated with enforcing the cleanup
Exposure scenarios and exposure parameters for each type of land level is calculated. On the other hand, for each specic cleanup
use are summarized in Table 1 and Fig. 1. Nine scenarios were level, potential remedial technologies are screened and remedial
simulated corresponding to nine different cleanup level. 50 mg/kg, alternatives are assessed, the most suitable remedial alternative is
100 mg/kg, and 400 mg/kg were selected as they had previously selected and detailed designs are conducted, life cycle inventory is
been used by a number of regulatory agencies (Jennings, 2013). The conducted based on design parameters, and nally the life cycle
value of 255 mg/kg was selected because it was the applicable impact associated with enforcing the cleanup level is calculated.
regulatory guidance value at the time of project implementation at After these two parallel lines of tasks are completed, the results are
this specic site. The remaining cleanup levels (800, 1500, 3000, combined using an appropriate weighting strategy. The combina-
6000, and 9000 mg/kg) were selected in order to establish incre- tion renders a net environmental benet (NEB) for each cleanup
mental intervals to allow for an assessment of trends and inter- level. The cleanup level corresponding to the maximum
polation if necessary.
1160 D. Hou et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 162 (2017) 1157e1168

Fig. 1. Exposure scenarios for students, school staff, and construction workers.

receptors that are exposed to the contaminated soil (or residual

contaminants) at the site; Ti is the duration of ith type receptors
with exposure risk within the study time horizon; R0,i is the ith type
receptor's exposure risk without cleanup efforts; and Ri is the ith
type receptor's exposure risk after cleanup.
The net environmental benet (NEB) is estimated using the
following equation:

NEB EB  (2)

where EC is the environmental cost derived by life cycle impact

assessment (LCIA), and f is a weighting factor. For the default sce-
nario in the present study, the local health benet is given a
weighting factor of 5, implying that local environmental impacts
have 5 times the importance of the regional to global environ-
mental impacts. A sensitivity analysis was conducted on the
weighting factor to render more implications of the chosen f value.
Further detail about the NEB calculation and sensitivity analysis is
included in Supporting Information.

3.2. Risk assessment method

For non-carcinogenic toxic substances, a reference dose (RfD)

value is used to estimate the daily oral exposure that is likely to
result in an appreciable risk of deleterious effects during a lifetime.
For carcinogenic substances, a chronic oral slope factor (CSF) is used
to estimate the probability of an individual developing cancer from
oral exposure to contaminant levels over a lifetime. However, there
Fig. 2. General framework for combining LCA and HRA to select cleanup level.
is no consensus RfD or CSF for Pb (USEPA, 2015). The USEPA
developed two blood-lead models: the Integrated Exposure Uptake
Biokinetic (IEUBK) model to estimate risks for children in the age
environmental benet is then considered the greenest cleanup group 1e7 (USEPA, 1994), and the Adult Lead Methodology (ALM)
level. model for adults (USEPA, 2009). Because the study site was to be
The environmental benet is estimated using the following used as a high school and site users would consist of students
equation: typically 14e18 years of age and adult staff, the ALM model was
used. Input parameters are shown in Table 2. The risk of Pb expo-
EB Ni Ti R0;i  Ri (1) sure was estimated by ALM and expressed as the possibility of a
i receptor having blood Pb levels exceeding the target blood Pb level.
More information about the risk assessment method is included in
where EB is the environmental benet associated with cleaning-up Supporting Information.
the contaminated soil; Ni is the average number of ith type The ALM model requires the input of an exposure soil Pb
D. Hou et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 162 (2017) 1157e1168 1161

Table 2 order to provide a basis to evaluate the NEB of remediation. The LCA
Input parameters for ALM blood-lead model and risk impact calculation. boundary was from cradle to grave, including raw material and
Parameter Value Source and Rationale energy acquisition, equipment acquisition and usage, trans-
Fetal/maternal PbB 1.0 Assumes the target blood Pb level is
portation, construction, and waste disposal. The functional unit was
ratio applicable to all adolescents and adults the removal and treatment of Pb contaminated soil to meet the nine
at school, rather than only the fetus of cleanup level used. The timeframe assumed for the LCA was 100
pregnant woman years, consistent with the timeframe for health risk impact quan-
Biokinetic Slope Factor 0.4 ALM model default value (USEPA, 2003)
tication as discussed in Section 3.2. Life cycle inventory data in this
Geometric standard 1.7 Applicable to a more homogeneous
deviation blood Pb population (USEPA, 2016) study were collected from project reports, published literature, and
Baseline blood Pb 0.7 mg/dL ALM model default value (USEPA, 2016) pertaining industrial consultants, contractors, and equipment
Soil ingestion rate e 100 mg/d Central tendency estimate (USEPA, vendors. Inventory data for background systems (e.g. upstream and
school student 2011)
downstream processes) were based on the ecoinvent life cycle unit
Soil ingestion rate e 50 mg/d Central tendency estimate (USEPA,
school staff 2011)
process database version 3.1 (Weidema et al., 2013). Where mate-
Soil ingestion rate 330 mg/d California Department of Toxic rial ow data was not available, economic input-output data were
Substances Control default exposure used based a hybrid LCA approach (Hou et al., 2014). This LCA study
factor (DTSC, 2014) was conducted using SimaPro 8.0 LCA software (PReConsultants,
Absorption fraction 0.12 Based on an absorption fraction for 2014). The life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) was conducted us-
soluble Pb of 0.20 and a relative ing the ReCiPe impact assessment method (Goedkoop et al., 2013).
bioavailability of 0.6 (USEPA, 2003) ReCiPe has both midpoint and endpoint indicators. We used the
Exposure frequency 180 d/y Based on 5-day school week and 36-
midpoint method as a basis to determine the weighting factor for
week school year
Averaging time 365 d/y
the health impact assessment results. We then used the default
Target blood Pb level 5 mg/dL Reference level established by Centers ReCiPe endpoint method, hierarchist version, to integrate results
for Disease Control and Prevention for various impact categories to render a single nal score, thus
(CDC) for children allowing for a comparison with the standardized risk assessment
Number of receptors 1500 students, 100 staff, 20 construction workers
results. More information about LCA inventory data and assump-
(approximate number based on school size)
Cumulative exposure 100 years for students and staff, 10 years for tions is included in Supporting Information.
years construction workers (assume the school is
continuously in use during the study period, and 4. Results and discussion
construction work occurs every one year out of ten
Weighting factor Use blood level to estimate mild mental retardation
4.1. Effect of cleanup level on remediation and use scenarios
rate; and subsequently estimate disability-adjusted
life year (DALY) and ReCiPe points (Ezzati et al., The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
2003) (Fewtrell et al., 2004) Advisory Committee on Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention
(ACCLPP) have suggested that blood Pb levels as low as 10 mg/dL can
result in IQ decits and detrimental effects in attention related
concentration. Because the study site consisted of multiple types of behavior and academic achievement (ACCLPP, 2012). USEPA has
land use, and Pb concentrations varied across the site, the exposure summarized the evidence indicating any increase in blood-lead
soil Pb concentration was calculated for two different receptors concentrations over background levels is associated with IQ de-
with potential exposure to four different land uses (see Table 2). cits in children (USEPA, 2013). There is a now a growing body of
For school students and staff, the following equation was used: scientic evidence that the cleanup of Pb contamination needs to
be applied to the most stringent criteria possible, in order to protect
Ca Aa Wa Cb Ab Wb site users against this issue. Fig. 3 shows that for the study site, the
C (3)
Aa Wa Ab Wb residual Pb concentration generally decreased as the cleanup level
became more stringent (right to left on the x-axis). Therefore, a
where C is the exposure soil Pb concentration; Ca and Cb are average greater level of health protection to site users was achieved by
soil Pb concentrations for Type A and Type B soil; Aa (20,312 m2) lowering the Pb cleanup level to more stringent levels. However,
and Ab (3840 m2) are total areas for Type A and Type B type land diminishing returns in the Pb residual concentrations are observed
uses; Wa (1) and Wb (0.2) are weighting factors to denote the fre- as the cleanup level reduces to the most stringent levels. It should
quency that site users may enter these areas. be noted that the latent extent of Pb contamination varied among
For construction workers, the following equation was used: different types of land uses. For instance, for the areas designated
for Type C land use, there was no soil lead concentration higher
Cc Ac Wc Cd Ad Wd
C (4) than 6000 mg/kg; consequently, for cleanup levels of both
Ac Wc Ad Wd
6000 mg/kg and 9000 mg/kg, the residual lead concentration
would be equal to the initial state.
where C is the exposure soil Pb concentration; Cc and Cd are average
However, cleanup level can also have a signicant effect on the
soil Pb concentrations for Type C and Type D soil; Ac (9956 m2) and
amount of remediation work required at a site. For the study site,
Ad (31,760 m2) are total areas for Type C and Type D type land uses;
based on gathered site investigation data, Fig. 4(a) shows that the
Wc (1) and Wd (0.2) are weighting factors to denote the work load
delineated area of contaminated soil, the volume of contaminated
associated with the two different types of land uses.
soil, and the volume of overburden (i.e. clean soil excavation
required to remove contaminated soil) rapidly increased as the
3.3. Life cycle assessment method cleanup level became more stringent. The rapid increase in treat-
ment volume is further illustrated by a semi-log plot of the data in
The present LCA was conducted in accordance with ISO 14040 Fig. 4(b) which shows that the volume of contaminated soil
and ISO 14044 (ISO, 2006a, b). The goal of the LCA was to quantify increased at a faster than an exponential rate. The rapid increase in
the life cycle impacts of remediation activities at the study site, in treatment volume with increasingly stringent criteria is important
1162 D. Hou et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 162 (2017) 1157e1168

Fig. 3. Effect of cleanup level on residual contamination.

Fig. 4. Effect of cleanup level on the level of remediation efforts: (a) with y axis expressed in linear scale; (b) with y axis expressed in log scale.

because it implies that the associated supplemental costs and sources and tended to migrate to deeper locations; while slight to
secondary environmental emissions will increase very rapidly, in moderate contamination, likely caused by diffusive sources, tended
contrast to the diminishing returns seen in Pb residual concentra- to reside near the surface. Therefore, the enforcement of lower
tion as discussed above. In order to achieve a high level of protec- more stringent cleanup levels may in effect shift resources from
tion against Pb exposure as advocated by ACCLPP, it is important to localized point source cleanup to the remediation of more wide
nd an optimum criterion for cleanup, to balance the health benet spread contamination from non-point emission.
of cleanup and the economic and environmental burden of the
remediation operations. 4.2. Exposure risk and human health impact
A close look at the spatial distribution of contaminated soil gives
further insight. Fig. 5 shows that when the cleanup level was higher Exposure risk determines the urgency and health benet of
(less stringent), a greater percentage of the delineated contami- intervention action (Swartjes, 1999). Fig. 6 shows the remaining
nated soil volume was located in deeper locations compared to exposure risk when various levels of cleanup level were enforced.
when the cleanup level was lower (more stringent), for which most When no remedial action was undertaken, the possibility of ex-
contamination was located at the near surface. This suggests that ceedance was highest for students (>18%); the possibility of ex-
the more serious contamination was probably caused by point ceedance was lower for school staff (3%); and the possibility of
D. Hou et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 162 (2017) 1157e1168 1163

Fig. 5. Distribution of impacted soils to be removed under various cleanup level: (a) total contaminated soil volume in m3; (b) percentage of total contaminated soil.

Fig. 6. Probability that a receptor's blood-lead level will exceed 5 mg/dL following exposure to the site post-remediation, as a factor of the cleanup concentration used (Note: NA
corresponds to the scenario where no cleanup action is taken).

exceedance for construction workers was also lower (2%). For stu- Pb ranged from 10.5% to 47.9% (Pascaud et al., 2014).
dents and staff, the health risk substantially reduced by approxi-
mately 90% even when the least stringent cleanup level of
4.3. Life cycle assessment results
9000 mg/kg was used. When cleanup levels became more strin-
gent, the reduction in probability of exceedance between each
Table 3 lists the amount of Pb removed from the site, and the
criterion assessed becomes much less signicant. For instance, for
amount of contaminants released into air, water, and soil over the
school students, when cleanup level is halved from 3000 mg/kg to
entire life cycle, including upstream and downstream processes.
1500 mg/kg, the associated health risk has a 48% reduction; but
Further results are also shown in Fig. 7 and included in Supporting
when the cleanup level is halved from 100 mg/kg to 50 mg/kg, the
Information. As can be seen, remediation activities can remove a
health risk only has a 15% reduction. It should be noted that the
large amounts of Pb contamination from the site, ranging from
default bioavailability of 60% for lead in soil was used in the ALM
1765 kg to 4034 kg, corresponding to cleanup levels of 9000 mg/kg
(see Table 2). This assumption may have overestimated exposure to
to 50 mg/kg, respectively. Remediation activities also led to the
lead in our assessment. For example, a previous study on Pb
release of various pollutant emissions. The amount of Pb released
contaminated soil at a soccer eld indicated that bioavailability of
was minimal, ranging from 0.3 kg to 3.6 kg. However, it should be
1164 D. Hou et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 162 (2017) 1157e1168

Fig. 7. Life cycle assessment results.

noted that this estimate was based on the assumption that the mitigating secondary pollution during remediation operations.
remediation activities were conducted with robust dust controls Table 3 also shows that a signicant amount of non-pertaining
and a storm water pollution prevention plan (SWPPP). If these dust pollutants can be released due to remediation operations. For
controls and SWPPP measures were not properly conducted, a instance, up to 17.8 kg of VOCs, 949.2 kg of sulfur dioxide, and
signicantly higher amount of Pb could be released into the envi- 317.9 kg of oil were released when the most stringent cleanup level
ronment. Moreover, because Pb in dust and surcial soil is more was used. Such pollutant emission represents a signicant envi-
accessible than Pb in bulk soil; the health risk posed would be ronmental cost associated with remediation operation. Moreover, it
signicant. A historical lesson is the United Kingdom's Corby case, shows that when the cleanup level decreased from 100 mg/kg to
where dust originating from remediation of a steelworks resulted 50 mg/kg, the additional amount of Pb removed from the
in exposure of pregnant women and consequently children with contaminated soil was only 88 kg, while the additional amount of
birth defects (Lee, 2009), demonstrating the importance of sulfur dioxide and oil emission was 171 kg and 68 kg, respectively.

Table 3
Life cycle inventory results for selected types of pollutants.

Cleanup level (mg/kg) Pb Removal (kg) Life Cycle Emissions

Pb (kg) benzene (kg) toluene (kg) VOC (kg) sulfur dioxide (kg) oil (kg)

50 4034 3.6 6.2 3.8 17.8 949.2 317.9

100 3946 2.8 5.0 3.0 14.3 778.4 250.4
255 3738 1.9 3.5 2.0 10.2 556.6 162.6
400 3410 1.4 2.5 1.4 8.5 414.0 106.3
800 2950 0.9 1.8 0.9 6.1 307.2 64.0
1500 2594 0.7 1.4 0.7 5.1 261.1 45.4
3000 2281 0.6 1.3 0.6 4.4 241.8 37.9
6000 2123 0.5 1.0 0.5 3.5 188.0 29.6
9000 1765 0.3 0.6 0.3 2.1 112.6 17.8

Note: only a few key pollutants are shown in the table; emissions include the total amount released to air, water, and soil.
D. Hou et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 162 (2017) 1157e1168 1165

In other words, the effort associated with strengthening the more research in this direction will be benecial in enabling and
cleanup level resulted in a greater total mass of non-Pb key encouraging policy makers to design better regulations and policy
pollutant emissions into the environment than the additional Pb instruments which can optimize the allocation of resources and,
removed from the soil. therefore, maximize the NEB from a life cycle perspective.
The comparison above is solely based on the mass of various
contaminants, which is not straightforward to interpret because of
differing toxicity levels and exposure risk. Fig. 6 presents the LCIA 4.4. Net environmental benet
results, which combines the consumption of various resources and
the emission of various pollutants into one single indicator under The so-called net environmental benet (NEB) has been a core
each impact category, thus allowing a more straightforward inter- element of green remediation, or sustainable remediation, or
pretation. As can be seen, when the cleanup level was relatively green and sustainable remediation (GSR), as dened by various
high (less stringent), ll material acquisition and transport was the government agencies and professional organizations. Some site
largest contributor for the categories of human toxicity and urban owners, like the US Air Force Center for Engineering and the
land occupation; transport of non-hazardous waste was the largest Environment (AFCEE) deliberately include GSR language, including
or near largest contributor for the categories of climate change, NEB in their performance based contracts (ITRC, 2011a). However,
photochemical oxidant formation, and fossil fuel depletion, and our literature review has revealed no published study which
landlling was the largest contributor for particulate matter for- directly quanties NEB. Most existing literature has used indirect
mation. When the cleanup level became more stringent, transport and/or qualitative methods to establish strategies to maximize
of hazardous waste became the dominant contributor for nearly all NEB. The most popular method is to use LCA to estimate the life
impact categories, with the exception of urban land occupation, cycle environmental cost, and use various strategies to minimize
for which ll material acquisition and transport remained the this cost. Given that a remedial objective is xed (i.e. a pre-
largest contributor. These results imply that the major contributor determined cleanup level), this indirect approach can provide a
of life cycle environmental impact changes as cleanup levels robust solution to maximize NEB. However, if a remedial objective
change. Therefore, when practitioners use qualitative methods to becomes part of the question (e.g. to select the greenest cleanup
conduct sustainability assessments, as suggested in some literature level), then this indirect method is no longer suitable.
(Cappuyns, 2013; EURODEMO, 2007), they must be careful in not To overcome this obstacle in promoting GSR, the present study
only considering site conditions but also the cleanup level when established a systematic method to calculate the NEB (see Section
drawing information from published LCA studies. 2.1). As Fig. 8 shows, the health impact of residual contamination
Life cycle assessment results can be used to identify important increased as the cleanup level increased (became less stringent),
environmental issues (hot spots) and to encourage technological and the life cycle environmental impact of remediation decreased
innovation. For instance, energy consumption was identied as the as the cleanup level increased; consequently, the NEB displayed a
major contributor of life cycle impact in thermal desorption non-linear concave down relationship with cleanup level. The NEB
(Lemming et al., 2010), and as such, researchers have developed increased when cleanup level increased from 50 mg/kg to 800 mg/
various technologies to lower thermal desorption temperature (Ma kg; and then NEB decreased when the cleanup level increased from
et al., 2014, 2015). Consequently such innovation can signicantly 800 mg/kg to 9000 mg/kg. In other words, there is an optimum
reduce the environmental cost of remediation (Hou et al., 2016a). cleanup level (i.e. 800 mg/kg) under the specic context of the
As discussed above, for the less stringent cleanup of Pb contami- studied site, which we call the greenest cleanup level. This cleanup
nated soil, environmental hot spots seem to be associated with ll level is considered to align better with life cycle aware risk
material acquisition/transport and non-hazardous waste transport assessment (Kuczenski et al., 2010).
and landlling. To mitigate environmental impact under such As discussed earlier, the weighting of local environmental
remedial scenarios, the most effective approach would likely benet (i.e. HRA results) versus global environmental cost (i.e. LCA
involve the use of on-site technologies, either in-situ treatment like results) may be critical. To test this hypothesis, we tested a variety
stabilization with phosphate (Hettiarachchi et al., 2001), or removal of weighting factors for HRA:LCA (i.e. the f value used in equation
and on-site treatment for reuse, for example by using soil washing (2)), ranging from 1 to 256. The results indicated that when f was 1
technology (Neilson et al., 2003). When the cleanup level is more or 2, the greenest cleanup level was 6000 mg/kg; when f was 3 or
stringent, the environmental hot spot is mainly associated with the 4, it was 1500 mg/kg; when f was in the range of 5e15, it was
transport of hazardous waste. To mitigate environmental impacts 800 mg/kg; when f was in the range of 16e44, it was 400 mg/kg;
under these scenarios, the most effective approach may involve when f was in the range of 45e137, it was 255 mg/kg; when f was in
trying to stabilize/solidify the waste on-site and then transport it to the range of 138e255, it was 100 mg/kg; and when f was 256 or
a local sanitary landll, rather than a hazardous waste landll. In above, it was 50 mg/kg (see Fig. 9). In the present study, we
the present study, on-site S/S was not suitable because California assumed a weighting factor of 5. However, in practice we suggest
hazardous waste regulations have both a leaching threshold (STLC: that the weighting factor should be determined based on stake-
5 mg/L), and a total concentration threshold (TTLC: 1000 mg/kg). As holder engagement. For an area with no nearby community
the US federal regulation only contains a leaching threshold (TCLP: affected, or the pertaining stakeholders have strong environmental
5 mg/L), on-site S/S may be chosen to mitigate the life cycle envi- sentiment for the wider society, a lower weighting factor may be
ronmental impact in other US states. Furthermore, we also postu- chosen. The stakeholder may feel environmental suffering else-
late that the above ndings can be used by policy makers who are where is as important as environmental deterioration in the local
tasked to make new regulations or revise existing regulations. For area, consequently they may choose the weighting factor to be 1. In
instance, Chinese government bodies from a national level to a local addition to the sensitivity of the f value weighting factor, the pre-
level are currently forming regulatory standards pertaining to soil sent study also examined the sensitivity of important site specic
pollution prevention and remediation. Some of these policy makers parameters including the transportation distance to non-hazardous
are realizing the importance of GSR and taking into account sec- landll and distance to the hazardous waste landll. It was found
ondary impacts associated with remediation. However, because that while these parameters are critical in determining the life cycle
literature in this research area remains limited, they have difculty environmental cost, it has little effect on the relative ranking of net
in directly adopting a new methodology. Nevertheless, we believe environmental benet under various cleanup levels.
1166 D. Hou et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 162 (2017) 1157e1168

Fig. 8. Net environmental benet of Pb remediation under various levels of cleanup level (Note: NA corresponds to the scenario where no cleanup action is taken).

Fig. 9. Sensitivity of net environmental benet of Pb remediation to weighting factor (number in each cell represents [NEB-NEBmin]/[NEBmax-NEBmin]).

4.5. General evaluation of the framework actual maximum NEB is probably slightly higher or lower than
800 mg/kg. One could rene the optimum cleanup level by con-
HRA and LCA each focus on different aspects of a system, of- ducting iterative analysis of additional cleanup levels around
fering complementary roles in decision making (Barberio et al., 800 mg/kg. This additional step is ignored in this study because this
2014). For example, in contaminated land remediation, adopting research study is mainly to demonstrate the effectiveness of the
more stringent criteria provides better health protection for site framework rather than pinpoint a cleanup level for this specic
users at the contaminated site, but it increases life cycle heath project.
impact at other places and at other times. Therefore, researchers The framework requires the selection of the most suitable
and regulatory advisors are calling for the integration of risk remedial technology for each cleanup level. In the case study, we
assessment with greater sustainability consideration (Abt et al., found that excavation and off-site disposal was consistently the
2010; National Research Council, 2011). It is clear that cleanup most suitable remedial technology with slight differences in off-site
level can affect the NEB of remediation operations; however, re- treatment. However, when applying this framework to other cases,
searchers have rarely examined this spectrum, which can hinder it is likely that cleanup level could completely change the suitable
the development and adoption of GSR. The proposed framework remediation technology.
renders a tool for quantitatively selecting the greenest cleanup We argue that deriving appropriate cleanup levels for wide-
level, thus making GSR more practical. spread contamination, as observed in China, particularly needs a
The framework proposed in this study lays out a general pro- new paradigm based on GSR principals. The study by Jennings
cedure for deriving cleanup levels based on the quantication of showed that regulatory guidance values for Pb contaminated soil
NEB of remediation alternatives. Remediation practitioners need to span across four orders of magnitude (Jennings, 2013). Selecting a
identify a set of potential cleanup levels in the rst place. The nal cleanup level from such a wide range, without the assistance of a
results of the evaluation showed a concave shaped relationship holistic and quantitative tool, can be very challenging. Applying the
between NEB and cleanup level, suggesting that the range of present framework requires a relatively high level of labor input, as
cleanup levels evaluated in the assessment was appropriate. The both HRA and LCA assess a large number of different scenarios;
D. Hou et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 162 (2017) 1157e1168 1167

nevertheless, the economic and environmental resources that are AFCEE Air Force Center for Engineering and the Environment
potentially saved from such an effort can far exceed the additional CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
cost of the analysis. In the present case study, using the default CSF chronic oral slope factor
cleanup level of 255 mg/kg corresponds to a life cycle remediation DALY disability-adjusted life year
cost of $2.2 million. If the greenest cleanup level found in this EEA European Environmental Agency
study (800 mg/kg) was used, it would reduce the life cycle reme- GSR green and sustainable remediation
diation cost to $1.4 million, rendering a 36% cost saving. Therefore, HRA health risk assessment
conducting such analysis on a project level can be signicantly LCA life cycle assessment
benecial. Moreover, if such an analysis is conducted from a policy LCIA life cycle impact assessment
making perspective, by considering a wide range of different site NEB net environmental benet
scenario models for general application, the benet of conducting RfD reference dose
such an assessment following the proposed framework could be S/S solidication/stabilization
very signicant overall. SWPPP storm water pollution and prevention control
TSCA Toxic Substances Control Act
5. Conclusion VOCs volatile organic compounds

This study proposed a framework to derive cleanup level and Appendix A. Supplementary data
identied an optimum cleanup level for Pb contaminated soil under
a specic site context, based on the combination of human health Supplementary data related to this article can be found at http://
risk assessment and life cycle assessment. In comparison with the
regulatory value enforced at the time of project implementation,
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