Engaging with residents’ perceived risks and benefits about technologies as a way of resolving remediation dilemmas

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Journal Article
Science of the Total Environment, 2017, 601-602 pp. 1649 - 1669
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© 2017 Elsevier B.V. In recent decades the diversity of remediation technologies has increased significantly, with the breadth of technologies ranging from dig and dump to emergent technologies like phytoremediation and nanoremediation. The benefits of these technologies to the environment and human health are believed to be substantial. However, they also potentially constitute risks. Whilst there is a growing body of knowledge about the risks and benefits of these technologies from the perspective of experts, little is known about how residents perceive the risks and benefits of the application of these technologies to address contaminants in their local environment. This absence of knowledge poses a challenge to remediation practitioners and policy makers who are increasingly seeking to engage these affected local residents in choosing technology applications. Building on broader research into the perceived benefits and risks of technologies, and data from a telephone survey of 2009 residents living near 13 contaminated sites in Australia, regression analysis of closed-ended survey questions and coding of open-ended questions are combined to identify the main predictors of resident's perceived levels of risk and benefit to resident's health and to their local environment from remediation technologies. This research identifies a range of factors associated with the residents’ physical context, their engagement with institutions during remediation processes, and the technologies which are associated with residents’ level of perceived risk and benefit for human health and the local environment. The analysis found that bioremediation technologies were perceived as less risky and more beneficial than chemical, thermal and physical technologies. The paper also supports broader technology research that reports an inverse correlation between levels of perceived risks and benefits. In addition, the paper reveals the types of risks and benefits to human health and the local environment that residents most commonly associate with remediation technologies.
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