The choice between different options for the remediation of a contaminated site traditionally relies on economical, technical and regulatory criteria without consideration of the environmental impact of the soil remediation process itself. In the present study, the environmental impact assessment of two potential soil remediation techniques (excavation and off-site cleaning and in situ steam extraction) was performed using two life cycle assessment (LCA)-based evaluation tools, namely the REC (risk reduction, environmental merit and cost) method and the ReCiPe method. The comparison and evaluation of the different tools used to estimate the environmental impact of Brownfield remediation was based on a case study which consisted of the remediation of a former oil and fat processing plant.
For the environmental impact assessment, both the REC and ReCiPe methods result in a single score for the environmental impact of the soil remediation process and allow the same conclusion to be drawn: excavation and off-site cleaning has a more pronounced environmental impact than in situ soil remediation by means of steam extraction. The ReCiPe method takes into account more impact categories, but is also more complex to work with and needs more input data. Within the routine evaluation of soil remediation alternatives, a detailed LCA evaluation will often be too time consuming and costly and the estimation of the environmental impact with the REC method will in most cases be sufficient. The case study worked out in this paper wants to provide a basis for a more sounded selection of soil remediation technologies based on a more detailed assessment of the secondary impact of soil remediation.