Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis: A Comprehensive Decision Approach for Management of Contaminated Sediments


Contaminated sediments and other sites present a difficult challenge for environmental decisionmakers. They are typically slow to recover or attenuate naturally, may involve multiple regulatory agencies and stakeholder groups, and engender multiple toxicological and ecotoxicological risks. While environmental decision-making strategies over the last several decades have evolved into increasingly more sophisticated, information-intensive, and complex approaches, there remains considerable dissatisfaction among business, industry, and the public with existing management strategies. Consequently, contaminated sediments and materials are the subject of intense technology development, such as beneficial reuse or in situ treatment. However, current decision analysis approaches, such as comparative risk assessment, benefit-cost analysis, and life cycle assessment, do not offer a comprehensive approach for incorporating the varied types of information and multiple stakeholder and public views that must typically be brought to bear when new technologies are under consideration. Alternatively, multicriteria decision analysis (MCDA) offers a scientifically sound decision framework for management of contaminated materials or sites where stakeholder participation is of crucial concern and criteria such as economics, environmental impacts, safety, and risk cannot be easily condensed into simple monetary expressions. This article brings together a multidisciplinary review of existing decision-making approaches at regulatory agencies in the United States and Europe and synthesizes state-of-the-art research in MCDA methods applicable to the assessment of contaminated sediment management technologies. Additionally, it tests an MCDA approach for coupling expert judgment and stakeholder values in a hypothetical contaminated sediments management case study wherein MCDA is used as a tool for testing stakeholder responses to and improving expert assessment of innovative contaminated sediments technologies.


Civil Engineering

Publication Date


Journal Title

Risk Analysis



Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


Document Type



© 2006 Society for Risk Analysis