Multi-criteria decision analysis with probabilistic risk assessment for the management of contaminated ground water

I. Khadam
J. J. Kaluarachchi, Utah State University


Traditionally, environmental decision analysis in subsurface contamination scenarios is performed using cost–benefit analysis. In this paper, we discuss some of the limitations associated with cost–benefit analysis, especially its definition of risk, its definition of cost of risk, and its poor ability to communicate risk-related information. This paper presents an integrated approach for management of contaminated ground water resources using health risk assessment and economic analysis through a multi-criteria decision analysis framework. The methodology introduces several important concepts and definitions in decision analysis related to subsurface contamination. These are the trade-off between population risk and individual risk, the trade-off between the residual risk and the cost of risk reduction, and cost-effectiveness as a justification for remediation. The proposed decision analysis framework integrates probabilistic health risk assessment into a comprehensive, yet simple, cost-based multi-criteria decision analysis framework. The methodology focuses on developing decision criteria that provide insight into the common questions of the decision-maker that involve a number of remedial alternatives. The paper then explores three potential approaches for alternative ranking, a structured explicit decision analysis, a heuristic approach of importance of the order of criteria, and a fuzzy logic approach based on fuzzy dominance and similarity analysis. Using formal alternative ranking procedures, the methodology seeks to present a structured decision analysis framework that can be applied consistently across many different and complex remediation settings. A simple numerical example is presented to demonstrate the proposed methodology. The results showed the importance of using an integrated approach for decision-making considering both costs and risks. Future work should focus on the application of the methodology to a variety of complex field conditions to better evaluate the proposed methodology.