Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Engineering Science

First Advisor

Zhou, Jianpeng

Second Advisor

Ma, Xingmao


In order to perform the environmental analysis and find the best management in the wastewater treatment processes using life cycle assessment (LCA) method, uncertainty in LCA has to be evaluated. A qualitative and quantitative procedure was constructed to deal with uncertainty for the wastewater treatment LCA studies during the inventory and analysis stages. The qualitative steps in the procedure include setting rules for the inclusion of inputs and outputs in the life cycle inventory (LCI), setting rules for the proper collection of data, identifying and conducting data collection analysis for the significant contributors in the model, evaluating data quality indicators, selecting the proper life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) method, evaluating the uncertainty in the model through different cultural perspectives, and comparing with other LCIA methods. The quantitative steps in the procedure include assigning the best guess value and the proper distribution for each input or output in the model, calculating the uncertainty for those inputs or outputs based on data characteristics and the data quality indicators, and finally using probabilistic analysis (Monte Carlo simulation) to estimate uncertainty in the outcomes. Environmental burdens from the solids handling unit at Bissell Point Wastewater Treatment Plant (BPWWTP) in Saint Louis, Missouri was analyzed. Plant specific data plus literature data were used to build an input-output model. Environmental performance of an existing treatment scenario (dewatering-multiple hearth incineration-ash to landfill) was analyzed. To improve the environmental performance, two alternative scenarios (fluid bed incineration and anaerobic digestion) were proposed, constructed, and evaluated. System boundaries were set to include the construction, operation and dismantling phases. The impact assessment method chosen was Eco-indicator 99 and the impact categories were: carcinogenicity, respiratory organics and inorganics, climate change, radiation, ozone depletion, ecotoxicity, acidification-eutrophication, and minerals and fossil fuels depletion. Analysis of the existing scenario shows that most of the impacts came from the operation phase on the categories related to fossil fuels depletion, respiratory inorganics, and carcinogens due to energy consumed and emissions from incineration. The proposed alternatives showed better performance than the existing treatment. Fluid bed incineration had better performance than anaerobic digestion. Uncertainty analysis showed there is 57.6% possibility to have less impact on the environment when using fluid bed incineration than the anaerobic digestion. Based on single scores ranking in the Eco-indicator 99 method, the environmental impact order is: multiple hearth incineration > anaerobic digestion > fluid bed incineration. This order was the same for the three model perspectives in the Eco-indicator 99 method and when using other LCIA methods (Eco-point 97 and CML 2000). The study showed that the incorporation of qualitative/quantitative uncertainty analysis into LCA gave more information than the deterministic LCA and can strengthen the LCA study. The procedure tested in this study showed that Monte Carlo simulation can be used in quantifying uncertainty in the wastewater treatment studies. The procedure can be used to analyze the performance of other treatment options. Although the analysis in different perspectives and different LCIA methods did not impact the order of the scenarios, it showed a possibility of variation in the final outcomes of some categories. The study showed the importance of providing decision makers with the best and worst possible outcomes in any LCA study and informing them about the perspectives and assumptions used in the assessment. Monte Carlo simulation is able to perform uncertainty analysis in the comparative LCA only between two products or scenarios based on the (A-B) approach due to the overlapping between the probability distributions of the outcomes. It is recommended to modify it to include more than two scenarios.




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