By Rob Frost and Hugh Mallett (Enviros Aspinwall)
To bring the UK into line with the EC Waste Framework Directive the Environment Agency (EA) has issued guidance on the application of waste management licences to remediation. This guidance states that contaminants are “waste” as they have been “abandoned” or “control of them has been lost” because the soil is not discrete from the contaminants that too will be considered waste. In particular circumstances uncontaminated natural arisings from service and foundation excavations on development sites could also be considered waste. The implications of this are that most, if not all, development sites will either require an exemption from Waste Management Licensing or will operate under a Waste Management Site Licence.
The consequences of this guidance are significant in terms of remediation and the redevelopment of brownfield sites. The AGS therefore published a Position Paper setting out the industry’s concerns (AGS web site) and this paper formed the Agenda for the Seminar with the EA, held at the Institute of Civil Engineers and attended by over 70 delegates.
The scene was set by Peter Witherington (Chair of the Contaminated Land Group) who outlined the main concerns described in the Paper. David Baker (House Builders Federation) then described how the EA Guidance and its interpretation could severely dent the Government targets for redevelopment (60% of new homes on brownfield sites).
Paul Needham of the EA Waste Division then described the EA position with regard to the EC Directive and its interpretation in their Guidance. He responded specifically to the AGS Position Paper;
- The EA should not seek a Waste Management Licence for the movement of clean natural soil.
- Geotechnical processes which generate material should not be classified as waste.
- Minor re-grading will not normally require a Waste Management Licence (minor not defined).
- Cover systems may require a Waste Management Licence.
- Exemptions from Waste Management Licences will be granted for material processed through mobile plant or material that is less than 2500m3and remains at the site of origin.
- Even if material has a use on site this does not preclude it from regulatory control.
An animated Question and Answer session followed during which the EA failed to satisfactorily respond to the concerns raised in the Position Paper. The main conclusions of delegates were that;
- The Guidance appears to be designed to move remedial strategies away from encapsulation and towards in situ or ex situ on site treatment of soils.
- The Guidance appears to be at odds with the principles of risk assessment and sustainability in land development
- There is an unresolved incompatibility in the EA’s position which requires that the same Waste Management controls are equally applicable to “landfill as they are to the remediation/ redevelopment of marginally contaminated soils.
Following the Seminar three actions have been undertaken by the AGS;
- The AGS was invited to join the “Single Remediation Working Group”. This Group has support from both DEFRA and the EA and has as its prime objective the definition of a dedicated regime for remediation. Simon Edwards (Merebrook) is the AGS representative and the Group had its first meeting in December.
- The AGS has written to the Environment Agency with an offer to assist in their forthcoming revisions of the Guidance on Waste Management.
- A written response to the Position Paper has been received from the EA which will now be up-dated.
Members with an interest and/ or experiences associated with Waste Management Licensing and remediation are encouraged to share information with the Contaminated Land Group. This will be vital in ensuring that the Single Remediation Working Group can properly address industry’s concerns in this most important area of our work.