Application of Natural Resource Valuation Concepts for Development of Sustainable Remediation Plans for Groundwater

Authors: J. Connor, S. Paquette, T. McHugh, E. Gie, M. Hemingway, G. Bianchi-Mosquera
Published: December 2016 in Journal of Environmental Management.

Abstract

This paper explores the application of natural resource assessment and valuation procedures as a tool for developing groundwater remediation strategies that achieve the objectives for health and environmental protection, in balance with considerations of economic viability and conservation of natural resources. The natural resource assessment process, as applied under U.S. and international guidelines, entails characterization of groundwater contamination in terms of the pre-existing beneficial services of the impacted resource, the loss of these services caused by the contamination, and the measures and associated costs necessary to restore or replace the lost services. Under many regulatory programs, groundwater remediation objectives assume that the impacted groundwater may be used as a primary source of drinking water in the future, even if not presently in use. In combination with a regulatory preference for removal or treatment technologies, this assumed exposure, while protective of human health, can drive the remedy selection process toward remedies that may not be protective of the groundwater resource itself or of the other natural resources (energy, materials, chemicals, etc.) that may be consumed in the remediation effort. To achieve the same health and environmental protection goals under a sustainable remediation framework, natural resource assessment methods can be applied to restore the lost services and preserve the intact services of the groundwater so as to protect both current and future users of that resource. In this paper, we provide practical guidelines for use of natural resource assessment procedures in the remedy selection process and present a case study demonstrating the use of these protocols for development of sustainable remediation strategies.