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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Category Archive: Latest news

  1. LQM Ternary Gas Composition Tool

    Earlier this month, we hosted the first of three Technical Briefing Webinars on ground gas presented by Steve Wilson of EPG.  In this webinar, Steve presented a number of case studies where an argument for no (or reduced) ground gas protection has been successfully built and justified by correctly following BS8485.  In particular, the need for a robust Gas Conceptual Site Model (gCSM) was highlighted; one that is supported by multiple lines of evidence and not simply reliant in the derivation of often erroneous Gas Screening Values.  One of the lines of evidence relied upon were Ternary Gas Composition Plots as discussed and defined in Ground Gas Information Sheet No 1.  Ternary plots provide a simple graphical approach to examining your ground gas data and investigating the potential for differences in the nature and source of the gas encountered at different locations and areas.

    LQM would now like to announce the release of a Ternary Gas Composition Tool which makes producing and interrogating your gas data within a Ternary plot quick and easy.  Like our other tools this Excel Spreadsheet does all the time-consuming work for you; simply cut & Paste in your data and the tool will instantly generate 3 different ternary plots that can be used as figures in your report to provide direct, science-based justification for your interpretation of the gas regime at a site.  The tool includes multiple filter fields that allow you to interrogate the data within the ternary plots to explore differences in the gas composition with for example, depth, zone or landuse, etc.

    In some of the case studies presented in the webinar, ternary plots provided part of the evidence necessary to justify why gas protection measures were not need (i.e. CS1) to provide sufficient protection at sites where carbon dioxide exceeded the trigger value of 5% cited in BS8485.  Where this elevated carbon dioxide is likely to be the result of limited and localised microbial respiration, it is unlikely that any substantial advective flow into a structure is possible.  Consequently, consultants armed with a Ternary plot can provide robust evidence that the risks do not warrant the increase to CS2 allowed for within BS8485.  This can provide client’s with a considerable cost saving but more importantly promotes the science-based redevelopment of such sites in a sustainable manner avoiding the costly conservatism that can result from the blind and uneducated application of BS8485.  In other cases they demonstrated that ground gases detected on site were the result of landfill gas migration and dilution rather than on-site generation.

    The LQM Ternary Gas Composition Tool is now available for purchase.  If you are interested, please visit our website https://www.lqm.co.uk/products/gastool1/ for more details of  just how simple it is to use.  Purchases are by online card payment only, to minimise procurement effort for you and us.  Just like the tools in our PAH Toolkit, the price includes personalisation with a logo of your choice on the graphical ouputs.  Once we receive you order, we will email you with a logo specification and send you your personalized version as soon as possible by email.

    P.S. Due to demand, recordings of the first Technical Briefing Webinar (Ground gas) entitled “Correct application of BS 8485” are also now available from our website.

    P.P.S. Steve Wilson will be discussing advanced methods of data analysis of continuous gas monitoring datasets in his 7th June 2019 webinar in which ternary plots can provide a useful line of evidence.


  2. Where are you and your company on the digital journey ? (May 2019)

    The world is going digital.  Recent conferences at East Land Quality Form, NICOLE and Brownfield Briefing have all highlighted increasing use of digital tools to analyse and display our data.

    LQM have been interested to know where land contamination practitioners – both consultants and regulators – are on the journey to digital transformation to speed organisations and individuals progress on the journey.  We ran a quick survey questionnaire back in April of the Contaminated Land Strategies JISCMail group to see whereabouts one of the go-to places for contaminated land advice amongst practitioners was on the digital journey, with a reasonable snap-shot comprising a 5% response rate. The survey will remain open for the time being so if you wish to add your responses please contribute, so we can update this blog in the future and see how the journey is going. Below are some of the highlights and insights of where we are to date.

    Unsurprisingly there was a high reliance on the use of spreadsheet tools with 95% using these to evaluate site investigation data, whilst <5% use efficient scripting approaches such as R and Python. Although, the importance of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and data(base) management systems such as HoleBase SI and gINT is clear with more than 60% using these tools.

    High reliance on spreadsheets … currently low use of scripting tools

    Despite the AGS data format first edition being published way back in 1992 it is surprising that the majority of respondents (63%) do not use it in any (38%) or on only some (25%) projects, with only 15% using it on all of their projects.

    Low use of AGS data format as the default project format

    Few practitioners thought Data Science or GIS tools were of no benefit to our data analysis but there are some limiting factors with such as a lack of training (64%) and expense of (proprietary) software licences (35%). It would seem a lack of availability and/or awareness of the suite of open source GIS and data science tools could be impeding our digital journey. Surprisingly, time limitations on projects was also perceived as being a significant factor among respondents (58%). Perhaps this is related to the lack of training or awareness of how such tools, with some upfront time investment, can improve reproducibility, efficiency and savings in the future. So perhaps we are being delayed by a perception barrier, brought about by unwise short-term decision making.

    Lack of training and time limitations holding back the digital journey?

    But when asked directly to judge the level of increase in your productivity that data science or GIS upskilling would have, 53% of respondents thought it would be substantial (2 or 3 times) if not essential for fear of employees (and employers) being left behind. The vast majority (93%) accepted that productivity could be increased.

    Upskilling is the future

    Traditional face-to-face (f2f) training courses for upskilling in the use of Data Science and GIS tools ranks highly but the increasing viability of online training facilities, coupled with the need to decrease employee downtime and costs, make a blend of online and f2f the top-ranking training method (44%), closely followed by online recorded & tutorials (42%). The overwhelming majority of respondents (80%) thought some form of training had an important a role to play in the digital journey.

    Blend of online and face-to-face training is preferred

    A similar majority (75%) showed an interest in training, some for general interest, but not unsurprisingly (given the sampled sub-population) most respondents (53%) thought the training should be focused on tasks relating to contaminated land and brownfields. With only 2% of respondents expressing a lack of interest in training (those with a high level of existing skills) it is clear there is an understanding that Data Science and GIS tools are important ways to improving our productivity.

    At the same time there is acceptance that there is also the need for the investment of time in the laying down of tracks to facilitate our productivity journey and overcome barriers such as a lack of awareness, perception of difficulty or expense, especially for the small and medium-sized enterprises.

    Many thanks for all those who have so far participated in the survey which forms the basis of this blog. We intend to update this blog to see how the digital journey is going (as interest dictates), you can contribute via the survey link.

    For more details about LQM’s current Data Science and GIS activities/training (June 2019) courses below or contact us:

    QGIS 1: Building a QGIS project – the road to data visualisation (20th June 2019)

    QGIS 2: Solving & Visualising Contaminated Land Problems using QGIS (26th June 2019)

    QGIS 3: Creating Efficient Workflows for Contaminated Land Problems using QGIS (27th June 2019)

  3. Petroleum hydrocarbon risk assessment using GC data – beyond TPHCWG?

    It is 25 years since the Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons Working Group (TPHCWG) published its five volume series of reports that have formed the basis for human health risk assessment of petroleum hydrocarbons ever since.
    The TPHCWG approach is based on an empirical method of analysing hydrocarbons and splitting mixtures in to one of thirteen fractions.

    New methods of analysis are now available that can give a better resolution in to the composition of hydrocarbon mixtures. However there is no guarantee that the results of these new methods of analysis are compatible with or equivalent to the ones proposed by the TPHCWG.

    As part of our continued commitment to raising standards among practitioners and regulators, LQM’s next Professional Practice Webinar, delivered by Paul Nathanail, will help you find out more about how to compare analyses using the TPHCWG method and current methods of analysis and explore the extent to which our human health risk assessments need to change as a result via LQM’s upcoming Professional Practice Webinar on 1st May 2019:

    Petroleum hydrocarbon risk assessment using GC data – beyond TPHCWG

  4. NEW: Technical Briefing Webinars for Ground Gases with EPG Ltd

    LQM are pleased to announce we will be hosting a summer series of Friday lunchtime (BST 1315-1430) Technical Briefing Webinars for Ground Gases to be delivered by Steve Wilson of EPG Ltd.

    Steve Wilson is Technical Director of The Environmental Protection Group (EPG) Limited, who has authored numerous technical papers and publications and provided training relating to gassing issues over many years and is well known for his authoritative and sound practical advice.

    Steve will be providing his insights into the ground gas queries that are regularly raised within contaminated land forums to clarify some of the major misconceptions, issues and ways to better inform your gas Conceptual Site Model (CSMgas).

    For further details and bookings is via:

    3rd May 2019 Technical Briefing Webinar (Ground Gases): Correct application of BS 8485

    7th June 2019 Technical Briefing Webinar (Ground Gases): Practical application of advanced methods of analysis of continuous gas monitoring data

    5th July 2019 Technical Briefing Webinar (Ground Gases): Gas Membranes – site specific specification of appropriate gas membranes


  5. Innovations in ground gas and vapour sampling and analysis, groundwater sampling and analysis

    Our ability to measure hazardous ground gases and vapours or detect low levels of dissolved phase contaminants in ground water rather than relying on conservative and poorly constrained modelling has improved in recent years.

    New technologies are enabling real time data to be collected. New data analytical techniques are providing greater insights in the composition and potential origins of hazardous gas, vapour or dissolved phase contaminants.

    For example so-called “emerging contaminants of concern” (around since the 1950s!) such as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), and their brominated cousins, provide laboratories with exciting challenges to attain the detection levels required by regulators but also to help us understand the potential future risks they may pose.  Conventional tests for PFAS measure a discrete list of up to about only 30 compounds and are not designed to quantify the suite of pre cursor compounds that may exist in soil and groundwater. Hence there are many additional PFAS compounds present at sites and within environmental samples that will not be determined during routine analysis. If you consider the environmental biotransformation processes that occur in biological waste water treatment plants, where significantly more PFOA and PFOS are measured at the outflow than the inflow, then you can begin to understand the importance of also identifying the important “precursors” to the perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs) to help us avoid underestimating the potential PFAS risk present in the environment. A new technique being offered by UK based labs is the Total Oxidizable Precursor (TOP) assay, which helps to quantify the concentration of non-discrete and difficult to measure PFAS compounds that are not determined by conventional analytical methods. Assessment of TOP assay data can help us to improve the potential risk from PFAS across a range of sites and situations.

    Guidance has been available for many years on assessing the potential human health risks arising via vapour intrusion internationally (e.g. the US and Australia), although within the UK field sampling techniques and guidance is less well developed, early work was carried out by the late Colin ferguson and Victor Krylov. For example in a UK context when taking vapour samples, there is a lack of definitive UK guidance on what are the best tracer techniques to use with many relying on the use of a potentially significant cross-contaminant iso-propyl alcohol (IPA) which can compromise your vapour results, cost you time and money and can cause problems for the laboratory. Helium is a generally accepted, but costlier, preferred inert tracer of choice, and is becoming increasingly favoured where low limits of detection for your volatile organic compounds are required for sensitive land use risk assessments.

    These are just some of the developments within the gas and groundwater sampling and analytical practices that contaminated land practitioners should be familiar with to help ensure they continue to provide sound advice to and defensible decisions for their clients and regulators.

    As part of our continued commitment to raising standards among practitioners and regulators, LQM’s next Professional Practice Webinar, delivered by Paul Nathanail, will explore the role innovative sampling and analytical techniques have in better managing land contamination on post- industrial brownfield sites or, the rare, Part 2A sites.

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

  6. 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.

  7. 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/

  8. ***FREE*** TECHNICAL AWARENESS WEBINAR: new British Standards ISO 18400 series

    An introduction to five new British Standards in the ISO 18400 series (free webinar)

    Wednesday 19 December at 1130 AM

    The next in an occasional series of webinars from LQM to raise the sector’s technical awareness will summarise the content of five new British Standards in the ISO 18400 series.

    The newly published standards are:
    • BS ISO 18400-104:2018 Soil quality – Sampling – Strategies
    • BS ISO 18400-202:2018 Soil quality – Sampling – Preliminary investigations
    • BS ISO 18400-203: 2018 Soil quality – Sampling – Guidance on the investigation of potentially contaminated sites
    • BS ISO 18400-205: 2018 Soil quality – Sampling – Guidance on the procedure for the investigation of natural, near-natural and cultivated sites
    • BS ISO 18400-206:2018 Soil quality – Sampling – Guidance on the collection, handling and storage of soil for assessment of biological functional and structural endpoints in the laboratory

    This free webinar will be delivered by Paul Nathanail and last for about 20 minutes. Places are limited to 99.

    If you register for a place and are unable to attend the webinar, you will be sent a copy of the slides and access to the recording afterwards.


    Delegates will gain an understanding of the scope and contents of each of these standards.

    BSI have indicated that registrands will receive a code entitling them to a discount for the five new documents.

    Get the chance to ask Paul questions!

    Who should attend
    This webinar is mainly relevant to regulators (including local authority staff) and consultants involved with sampling of potentially contaminated soil, of soil from natural, near-natural and cultivated sites and of soil for the assessment of biological functional and structural endpoints in the laboratory.

  9. EA Withdraws Mercury SGV and associated reports

    The Environment Agency has withdrawn the Soil Guideline Value (SGV) for mercury and the supporting reports following discussions with Public Health England (PHE) about a revised opinion from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). The SGV Report, the TOX Report, and the Supporting Information Document for Mercury will remain available for historical reference on the Government and Environment Agency archives and on the CL:AIRE Wall
    The SGV for mercury was published in 2009. In 2012, EFSA published their scientific opinion on public health risk from inorganic mercury and methyl mercury in food. A summary and the full report are available here: https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/pub/2985.

    EFSA recommended oral TDI values for both inorganic mercury and methyl mercury that are lower than the oral HCV that was used in deriving the SGV. The EA are withdrawing their reports in light of this expert opinion. The Agency will not be updating these reports as it no longer undertakes work to derive new SGV or TOX reports, but it will continue to recommend that relevant public health bodies are consulted where industry has published or is developing alternative criteria for mercury which would also include elemental mercury.

    A Note on the S4ULs for Mercury

    In deriving the S4ULs for inorganic mercury and methylmercury LQM cited the EFSA (2012) opinion on the Provisional Tolerable Weekly Intakes (PTWIs) established by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) for methylmercury and inorganic mercury. LQM derived oral Tolerable Daily Intakes (TDIoral) based on TWIs established by EFSA (2012) that, as stated in Nathanail et al (2015), were lower than the oral TDIs used in deriving the SGVs by the Environment Agency (2009). LQM considered UK sources of information with respect to background intakes (food, water and air) as described by Nathanail et al (2015), including the 2006 UK Total Diet Study (FSA, 2009) that was used by EFSA in their dietary exposure estimates.


    EFSA (2012) EFSA Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM); Scientific Opinion on the risk for public health related to the presence of mercury and methylmercury in food. EFSA Journal 2012;10(12):2985. [241 pp.] doi:10.2903/j.efsa.2012.2985. Available online: https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/pub/2985

    Environment Agency. (2009). Soil Guideline Values for mercury in soil (Science Report No. SC050021 / Mercury SGV). Environment Agency (Bristol, UK). Available online: https://www.claire.co.uk/information-centre/water-and-land-library-wall

    Nathanail CP, McCaffrey C, Gillett AG, Ogden RC, & Nathanail JF. (2015). The LQM/CIEH S4ULs for Human Health Risk Assessment. Land Quality Press, a Division of Land Quality Management Ltd: Nottinghamshire, UK. Available online: https://www.lqm.co.uk/publications/s4ul/

    FSA. (2009). Measurement of the concentrations of metals and other elements from the 2006 UK Total Diet Study (Food Survey Information Sheet No. 01/09). Food Standards Agency (London, UK). Accessed from: http://multimedia.food.gov.uk/multimedia/pdfs/fsis0109metals.pdf

    NOTE: This FSA document is currently not available from the Food Standards Agency website or the National Archives website, but see Rose et al (2010) available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20628929

  10. Barracks to Homes – Ranges to Residences

    According to the then Secretary of State, in November 2016 the Ministry of Defence estate covers almost 2% of the United Kingdom’s land mass—an area almost three times the size of Greater London. In March 2016 the Secretary of State for Defence announced “an ambitious programme of estate rationalisation” and identified 10 sites for release from the Defence Estate that would generate some £1billion and contribute up to 55,000 homes. These sites included barracks, training land, former RAF maintenance unit, fighter airfield and other former land uses.  Other sites have been added to the list.

    Under Part 2A of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, certain defence related activities would result in a determined contaminated land to be a special site.

    Many defence activities, past and present, have or have had the potential to contaminate land. Such contamination could be of the sort encountered on non-military post-industrial brownfield sites – heavy metals, fuels, solvents, asbestos.  However, there are also contaminants particularly associated with defence related former land uses: explosive ordnance from WWI and WWII aerial bombardment, munitions, pyrotechnics, firefighting agents, chemical weapon residues, propellants, radioactive luminescent paint.

    For example, chemical weapons (CW) contamination is mainly associated with burial or burning pits, generally on current or former MoD (Ministry of Defence) and MoS (Ministry of Supply) land. CW agents were produced at only a small number of known sites in the UK.  However, containerised or weaponised CW agents may be present on any MoD site since during WWII CW munitions were distributed widely rather than being concentrated at production and storage sites or the few Forward Filling Depots (FFD) as had been thought previously.

    Explosives sites were built for both military and commercial use. Military explosives sites mainly manufactured explosives or involved ammunition filling with activity peaking during the two world wars and the Korean conflict.  The period when a specific site was operating may indicate the types of explosives that could be present in the soil. Such sites are found across the entire UK but the largest sites had good access to the rail network.

    Former military sites will contribute much of the new housing over the coming years. Ensuring future residents will be safe and demonstrating that the land is suitable for this sensitive land use requires a sound understanding of the nature and distribution of contamination across a site.  Whether a naval dockyard, former air-force base or army barracks, understanding how a site has been used is an essential pre-requisite to developing an informed conceptual site model and designing an appropriate sampling and analytical strategy as well as eventually designing a successful remediation strategy.

    Whether former aircraft hangars, vehicle maintenance, ordnance depots, weapons manufacture or fuel storage, military sites are an important part of securing safe and suitable for use land for new homes. Their rural or peri-urban location makes them very attractive to future residents – and therefore developers.

    The topic of our next Professional Practice Webinar is Redeveloping Military Sites.  The webinar will discuss the unique sources of contamination and unusual pathways that are present on military sites, review key sources of information, describe established and emerging methods of remediating military sites.  LQM will be delivering this webinar at 1-3pm on 21 November 2018.  You are most welcome to book a place via https://www.lqm.co.uk/webinars/rmsweb/