How to clean up large site contaminations, such as oil spills or toxic river sediment, presents environmental managers with complex choices and often unclear tradeoffs. How can the optimal remediation option, given all the ecologic and financial considerations, be assessed and chosen with transparency for stakeholders?
Aptima, which excels in modeling human decision-making, is developing PLANET – the PLatform for ANalyzing Environmental Tradeoffs – a decision-support system for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to use in its remediation efforts throughout the U.S.
Environmental site managers overseeing complex clean-up projects will use PLANET to weigh and rank remediation alternatives, conduct collaborative “what-if” analyses, and share and communicate the decision-making processes with stakeholders for greater transparency.
The University of New Hampshire is contributing to PLANET by providing subject matter expertise on environmental decision-making.
PLANET in Action
Currently no single system exists to support site managers who need to perform a systematic assessment on all the available remediation options and render an expert judgment. In the case of river contaminated with heavy metals, managers are faced with numerous options to consider; the expensive and disruptive process of dredging, which can could expose humans and the food chain to greater contamination, long-term natural recovery and monitoring, or amelioration using new experimental capping methods.
Using PLANET, managers will be able to pull together all the necessary information bearing on these remediation decisions, seamlessly combining data from all applications and studies, including environmental forecasts, geospatial imagery of the contamination boundaries and spread, and economic costs.
A unique feature designed into PLANET is the added ability to survey the opinions and values of the stakeholders, including affected communities, preservationists, and government agencies. “With most environmental issues, there are often disagreements on the various courses of action, the acceptable risk levels, and impacts on the community,” said Shawn Weil Ph.D., Director of Aptima’s Analytics, Modeling & Simulation Division, and PLANET Principal Investigator. “Understandably, everyone in the process wants to know ‘did you try this option or consider that one?’”
Managers using PLANET’s decision-support platform will be able to factor in the priorities of these stakeholders, allowing them to construct scenarios where they can test the effects of assumptions, determine the trade-offs between different intervention options, and rank the options for all to see.
“Opening up the process, communicating, and sharing it makes the decision-methodology more logical and transparent. Research shows that a participative process translates to better buy-in and agreement, which is critical to finding solutions that satisfy both those affected by and those responsible for the remediation,” Weil added.
PLANET is expected to be a valuable decision-support system for government and commercial managers of environmental project sites, including the US Army Corps of Engineers, the US Environmental Protection Agency, state departments of environmental protection, port authorities, and management consulting firms.
This material is based upon work supported by the Army SBIR Phase II Program under US Army Engineer Research and Development Center Contract No. W912HZ-10-C-0121.
DISTRIBUTION STATEMENT A. Approved for public release; distribution is unlimited.
Source: Aptima, Inc.
Date: Apr 23, 2012