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: Nov 2018

  1. 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    The Environment Agency has withdrawn the Soil Guideline Value (SGV) for mercury and the supporting reports following discussions with Public Health England (PHE) about a revised opinion from the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 The SGV Report, the TOX Report, and the Supporting Information Document for Mercury will remain available for historical reference on the Government and Environment Agency archives and on the CL:AIRE Wall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

  2. 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/