LQM is a specialist environmental consultancy based in Nottingham (UK) with an international reputation for assessing and managing the risks posed to human health and the environment by contaminants in soil. Increasingly this is being done within a context of sustainable development and specifically sustainable brownfield regeneration.

We provide consultancy, peer review and expert witness services, contract research and training courses on all aspects of the management of land contamination to problem holders, developers and local government.

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Archive: Jan 2019

  1. Getting the right answers needs the right tools and efficient use of your data

    Changing pattern of ground water levels and ground gas concentrations over 13 rounds of (spot) monitoring before, during and after leakage of discharge water from a Combined Heat and Power Plant (NOTE: hypothetical site & conditions). See QGIS2 course for full-screen hi-res video.


    LQM have for many years had to make sense of myriad datasets, in multiple data formats and from varied site investigations … ranging from single house plots to large industrial sites or residential estates … previous investigations and risk assessments undertaken by small independents through to large multi-national companies.

    One of the most consistently frustrating features of such work is a little more effort at combining the data collected with the right data analysis tools and data formats would have made the original decision-making more effective, cost efficient and ultimately sustainable. Robust data management, analysis and visualisation breeds the sound science and defensible decisions from site investigations regulators demand, stakeholders expect and clients deserve.

    Roger Chandler of Keynetix in the Nov/Dec 2018 issue of the AGS Magazine clearly states the importance of using the AGS data format and you cannot argue against the logical efficiency of his two ‘Golden rules’ … only enter data once … and get someone else to do it!

    Once you have all of this data in the right format you need a way to interrogate, visualise and evaluate it. For contamination investigations the LQM starting tool of choice is a Geographic Information System (GIS), as each sample you take or monitoring point has a location in space (Easting, Northing, Depth) and time. Your conceptual site model has the same dimensions and so there is a logical efficiency in using a GIS to store and present your data.

    BS ISO 18400‑104:2018 ‘Sampling Strategies’ (and other members of the BS ISO 18400 series) is guidance intended to be used in conjunction with and take precedence over BS 10175:2011+A2:2017 ‘Investigation of potentially contaminated sites’. Part 104 provides guidance on the development of site investigation and sampling strategies taking into account the need to obtain representative samples and to have regard to relevant statistical principles.  (We will leave the limitations of non-spatial statistics for another occasion – but Paul Nathanail did cover this in a webinar on geostatistics a year or so ago).

    GIS helps us ensure we meet the current standards for data collection, visualisation, data analysis and dissemination of information.

    The good news is that free and open source GIS tools such as QGIS are now widely available and have, for most contaminated land situations, comparable functionality to commercial software systems. Indeed QGIS can be integrated with data analytics (e.g. RQGIS). A host of user-friendly plugins also brings more conventional statistical and graphical spreadsheet analysis, such as summary statistics, X-Y scatter plots, histograms, box-plots and even ternary plots directly into the GIS environment (WARNING – non spatial statistics can give misleading results!). You can easily view site walkover photos using the GPS data in your digital photos or view borehole logs as images or tables. If you want to display your monitoring data as an animated video then QGIS can do that for you too. The major limitation of the QGIS for site investigations is knowing what it can do for you and how to do it.

    If you would like to learn more; here’s some good news: LQM are running two one-day entirely hands-on courses to cater for both beginners (QGIS 1) and current users looking to more efficiently translate data into information (QGIS 2). These courses will help you to inform your conceptual site model, site investigation design, interrogate your SI data and produce informative spatial and temporal infographics and not just meaningless pages of data.

    QGIS 1: Building a QGIS project – the road to data visualisation (27 February 2019)

    QGIS 2: Solving & Visualising Contaminated Land Problems using QGIS (28 February 2019)

    Given the requirements of the British Standards Institute and the important role that the AGS data format plays in achieving a more efficient approach towards site investigation and development, there is little excuse for not investing a little bit of effort to learn how to gain maximum value from some of the great free and open source GIS tools available to us.

  2. Contamination from illegal drug manufacture, processing and storage – a clandestine, criminal, cottage industry

    Derelict, abandoned and underused buildings may be put to illegal uses, including the manufacture or processing of recreational drugs.  The very nature of such activities poses challenges to those carrying out site walkovers and advising on the need for and scope of remediation if the sites are to be redeveloped, converted or sold.

    The manufacture of synthetic chemicals or processing of for use as recreational drugs can result in contamination of soil and groundwater with chemicals that are not routinely considered in the investigation of potentially contaminated land.

    The immediate responders – mainly the Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) in the UK – are most at risk. The risk posed by illicit drug laboratories, particularly ‘methamphetamine’, is increasing within the UK. There are many examples from Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand of emergency service first responders being killed by hazards associated with illicit drug laboratories.

    Illicit laboratories may have engaged in extraction, conversion and/or synthesis processes. The materials involved as feedstock, products and associated wastes are hazardous.  In some cases involving flammable solvents, accidental explosions and fires have resulted in fatalities as well as wider dispersion of contaminants.

    Illicit drug laboratories may be identified or at least suspected from tell tale signs, odours and behaviour of occupants. Staff engaged in due diligence, pre -acquisition and phase 1 investigations may encounter such labs unexpectedly prior to entering a building.  Inside the premises, drug production hardware, raw ingredient, final product and waste materials may be stored as liquids or solids or in the case of waste or accidental spills be strewn across the floor or find their way into drains.

    Such accidental discovery should result in walkover personnel leaving the vicinity and informing the emergency services – both police and FRS. This not only ensures personal safety but also reduces the risk of compromising evidence at what may become a crime scene.  Dealing successfully with such, very rare, discovery depends on the training and awareness of relevant staff.

    As part of our continued commitment to raising standards among practitioners and regulators, LQM’s next Professional Practice Webinar, delivered by Paul Nathanail, will deal with the range of hazards involved in illicit drug laboratories, current, albeit limited, UK guidance and guidance from elsewhere where soil and groundwater contamination has received greater attention.

    You can find out more and book a place by visiting https://www.lqm.co.uk/webinars/ccweb/