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Comparative Risk Assessment Methods and Their Applicability to Dredged Material Management Decision-Making

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This article reviews the status of comparative risk assessment within the context of environmental decision-making; evaluates its potential application as a decision-making framework for selecting alternative technologies for dredged material management; and makes recommendations for implementing such a framework. One of the most important points from this review for decision-making is that comparative risk assessment, however conducted, is an inherently subjective, value-laden process. There is some objection to this lack of total scientific objectivity (“hard version” of comparative risk assessment). However, the “hard versions” provide little help in suggesting a method that surmounts the psychology of choice in decision-making schemes. The application of comparative risk assessment in the decision-making process at dredged material management facilities will have an element of value and professional judgment in the process. The literature suggests that the best way to incorporate this subjectivity and still maintain a defensible comparative framework is to develop a method that is logically consistent and allows for uncertainty by comparing risks on the basis of more than one set of criteria, more than one set of categories, and more than one set of experts. It should incorporate a probabilistic approach where necessary and possible, based on management goals.
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Keywords: comparative risk assessment; dredged material; risk evaluation methods; risk-based decisions

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Menzie-Cura & Associates, Inc., Winchester, Massachusetts, USA 2: United States Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Vicksburg, Mississippi, USA

Publication date: 2004-06-01

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