An integrated approach to pollution control

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


In this study, integrated pollution control (IPC) is viewed as an approach which seeks the most cost-effective way of reducing the overall risk to human health and the environment from all pollutants in all environmental media. It does this by simultaneously taking into account all pollutant discharges, all available control options, the transport of all pollutants in the environment following discharge, and the resulting risk to human health and environment.

The purpose of this study is to determine whether it is technically feasible to implement the IPC approach. IPC is considered technically feasible if a methodology capable of selecting a pollution control strategy under an IPC framework can be developed and if the methodology is reliable - i.e., the assumptions underlying the model are valid, and adequate data are available.

A typical IPC methodology involves identifying pollutant sources and pollution control options, tracing the pollutants through the environment, determining risks to human health and the environment resulting from the ambient pollutant concentrations, and identifying the most cost-effective pollution control alternative. In this study, three submodels - pollution control and cost, pollution transport, and risk assessment - are used to provide information for the first three steps of the IPC methodology. An IPC model which integrates information provided by the three submodels and selects the most cost-effective control strategy from a given set of pollution control alternatives is developed. The model is applied to a case-study which involves a hypothetical coal-fired power plant situated in a realistic physical setting.

Rather than identifying the most cost-effective solution for the case-study, the purpose here is to demonstrate what is involved in the implementation of the IPC approach through a simplified example. Specifically, the study systematically documents the limitations of the approach, which result from the unavailability of data, the inadequacy of modeling techniques, and difficulty in dealing with value based issues. The author's sense of the likelihood that these limitations can be overcome is presented. The study resulted in some general observations which reflect on the applicability of IPC to pollution control. For instance, the observation is made that to increase the reliability of the IPC model, the pollution transport and risk assessment models need significant development, with particularly extensive efforts required in the risk assessment area in terms of both data development and modeling.

The study concludes that, at the present time, development of IPC is not at a point where it can be implemented with confidence. However, the author contends that despite its limitations, and irrespective of whether or not IPC can ever be implemented, the approach can be used as a valuable tool for analyzing environmental systems in that it reveals issues that might be lost if the system is analyzed component by component.