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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Land Contamination Management in the UK

Land contamination legislation differs among the four countries that make up the United Kingdom. The risks posed by historic contamination to current land uses are considered under Part 2A of the Environmental Protection Act in Wales, Scotland and England – though with differences in the underlying secondary legislation as set out in Statutory Guidance. The risks posed by historic contamination to proposed land uses are dealt with under the planning system in each country. Scotland, Wales and England have supporting guidance on land contamination aspects of redevelopment. New and recent contamination is considered through several laws including those regulations that transpose the EU Environmental Liability Directive into national law in each country. While not in a position to offer legal advice we are familiar with the legal regimes relevant to land contamination in Northern Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland.

At sites where contamination is present within soils, there may be risks to people, buildings and structures, water resources and the wider environment. Where these risks are significant, mitigation measures may be needed to control and manage these risks. The process of determining if the level of risk warrants such mitigation measures is known as risk assessment. The adoption of risk-based approaches enables resources to be targeted to delivering worthwhile reductions in risk and thereby contribute to wise environmental stewardship in the context of sustainable development.

Current UK guidance recommends a phased approach to the risk assessment of soil contamination, based on the developing and updating of a site-specific conceptual model (CSM).  This allows all potential risks to be identified, characterised, assessed and, where necessary, quantified in a logical and cost-effective step-wise process. This process normally starts with a Phase 1 or Preliminary Risk Assessment, consisting of a desk study and site reconnaissance visit.  Where necessary this is followed by a Phase 2 risk assessment.

Phase 1: Preliminary Risk Assessment

The first step in any contaminated land assessment is the development of the initial conceptual site model (CSM), which identifies all potential pollutant linkages. The CSM is based on a comprehensive desk-top review of all available documents (possibly including maps, aerial photographs, previous reports and archive documents) and a  site reconnaissance visit to identify the current status of the site, any hindrance to further investigation and any evidence not present in the documentary record.

To learn more about how LQM can meet your Phase 1 requirements click here.

Phase 2: Site Investigation and Risk Assessment 

Where the Phase 1 suggests that significant risks may be present, a Phase 2 risk assessment is usually recommended.  This consists of a site investigation, which provides suitable data on soil types and contaminant concentrations etc., an interpretation of the data and a quantitative risk assessment, which indicates if the levels of contamination are likely to pose unacceptable risks.

Phase 2: Site Investigation

Where the initial CSM has identified assumptions and uncertainties that require further assessment, an intrusive site investigation is likely to be required to collect relevant soil, groundwater and ground gas samples for analysis.  The nature and extent of such investigations will be site-specific and clearly based on the findings of the Phase 1 assessment.

The SI process usually generates large amounts of data in terms of soil and groundwater laboratory data, trialpit/borehole logs, gas monitoring results and groundwater depth monitoring. Understanding and interpreting this data is a key element of the SI process that is essential in order to release the maximum benefit from the data.

To learn more about how LQM can meet your site investigation requirements click here.

Phase 2: Risk Assessment

Quantitative risk assessment uses mathematical algorithms to estimate the levels of contamination to which a receptor may be exposed, based on the information provided by the site investigation. This assessment is then used to evaluate the significance of the level of contamination present. The nature of the algorithms vary depending on the types of receptor present at each site.

The Phase 2 process should be fully reported in a detailed report, including a factual description of the SI works, an assessment of the data and the conclusions of the quantitative risk assessment. It should also include an updated CSM and conclusions about the need for further investigation/assessment or remediation.

We developed and license to others the LQM/CIEH Dose Response Roadmaps to allow a simpler assessment of the risks to human health under Part 2A of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (the "contaminated land" regime).

The potential risks identified in the initial CSM will require further quantitative assessment, using the data from the SI, to determine if they represent unacceptable risks and warrant further assessment or remedial intervention.

Quantitative assessment uses mathematical algorithms to estimate the levels of contamination to which a receptor may be exposed, based on soil or groundwater concentrations, contaminant properties, site conditions etc. This assessment is then used to evaluate the significance of the level of contamination present. The nature of the algorithms vary depending on the types of receptor present at each site.

The Phase 2 process should be fully reported in a detailed report, including a factual description of the SI works, an assessment of the data and the conclusions of the quantitative risk assessment. It should also include an updated CSM and conclusions about the need for further investigation/assessment or remediation.

To learn more about how LQM can meet your risk assessment requirements click here.

Phase 3: Risk management and remediation

Where the CSM indicates that unacceptable risks exist, risk management action is warranted. This action should demonstrably break the contaminant-pathway-receptor linkage.  Although LQM is not a remediation contractor, we do have extensive experience in the selection of appropriate remedial solutions (known as options appraisal) at difficult and complex sites and the development of appropriate remedial strategies. We also have extensive experience in the review of verification of remedial completion reports.  We are working with others to develop an informative standard on Sustainable Remediation under the auspices of the International Standards Organisation.