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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APPLICATION OF BS 10176 – SAMPLING SOILS FOR DETERMINATION OF VOCs
BS10176 has been out for almost a year now. Do you know about it? Are you using it? Would you like to know more?
LQM, ALS, and GHD are hosting a FREE webinar about the practical application of BS 10176 at 2 pm on 23 April.
Judith Nathanail (LQM) will take you through the key features of BS10176 and the new requirements for sampling VOCs.
The webinar will include the presentation of data obtained recently in the UK which indicates clearly why it is necessary to use methanol immersion of samples in the field if the analytical results are to be used for risk assessment.
Two of the BS10176 committee – Geraint Williams (ALS, Committee Chair) and Mike Smith will be panelists on the webinar to answer your questions facilitated by Paul Nathanail (GHD) as Chair.
LQM is contributing to a new EU project – SPRINT Sustainable Plant Protection Transition – focused on investigating risks from pesticides to human health and the environment and looking at pathways for the transition towards more sustainable plant protection.
SPRINT involves case study sites across Europe. LQM first task has been coordinating training for case study site leaders. This had included sampling soils and groundwater as well as ecological sampling and guidance of collecting human samples.
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 QGIS3 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, Elevation) 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 quickly load your geotagged site walkover photos into your GIS model and view them conveniently within QGIS as an aid to communication and visualisation to clients and colleagues (see this LQM GIS web-byte). Similarly you can view your borehole logs as images or tables in tandem with your contaminant and other site investigation datasets, helping you more clearly define your conceptual site model, risk evaluation and communication (there’s a LQM GIS web-byte to help you with that too).
If your looking to display your monitoring data as an animated video then QGIS can do that for you too. The major limitation of 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 three one-day entirely hands-on courses to cater for both beginners (QGIS 1), current users looking to more efficiently translate data into information and solve problems (QGIS 2) and for those wishing to learn how to create efficient workflows which can be shared with colleagues, save you time and produce reproducible outputs (QGIS3). 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.
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.
A career is a life long learning journey in which its important to reinforce what you know, broaden horizons and develop new skills along the way.
LQM’s continued commitment to raising standards among practitioners and regulators on topics of timely relevance and new approaches to contaminated land management is reflected in the depth and breadth of face to face training courses and accessible online lie and recorded learning opportunities currently available.
Similarly, the number of contaminated land products (software tools, publications, recorded tutorials and webinars) also continues to expand to meet different demands from clients and practitioners.
The next few months are packed with a range of face-to-face and online training opportunities which have been conveniently listed below to help you find something of interest over the long dark autumn-winter days ahead! Happy learning.
LQM are happy that our ‘Ternary Gas Composition Tool’ received a mention from Steve Wilson of EPG during his recent presentation on ground gases at the ‘Brownfield Land Wales 2019’ conference. But then it is based on research he published last year in conjunction with Ambisense.
From the pings on our website, it must really have got the interest of practitioners in the audience who want to better understand their ground gas data and leverage its full potential and value. If you want to join them, find out more about the Ternary Gas Composition Tool and our full range of products and recorded webinars.
Note: LQM have recently updated the Licence Agreement for all our software tools, including the Ternary Gas Composition Tool, to clarify that organisations with multiple offices need to purchase multiple copies/licences of the software.
Following on from the results of our Digital Skills in Contaminated Land** survey earlier in the summer, LQM are running a follow-up survey focused on GIS skills in the Contaminated Land / Brownfield Sector.
The main objectives are:
1) Obtain industry practitioner viewpoints of the importance of GIS tools for every day work tasks.
2) Raise awareness of training initiatives to demonstrate the ability of developing staff data science skills to increase productivity and improve project outcomes.
LQM GIS web-bytes for Contaminated Land
If you have never used a GIS in anger before or stuck for inspiration then take a look at one of the LQM GIS web-bytes before (or after) taking the survey.
LQM have produced these short videos to clearly demonstrate and talk you through just some of the innovative ways of viewing and interrogating your site investigation data with the use of the QGIS software.
Feedback and/or suggestions for further web-bytes welcome!
View the LQM GIS web-bytes (nominal charge applies):
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.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.
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:
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: