Article Contaminated Land

CLAN 02/05

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In September 2005, the Cabinet Office led Soil Guidance Value (SGV) Task Force issued its first (and long awaited) public pronouncement – Contaminated Land Advice Note No. 2 [CLAN 02/05]. This Note has far reaching consequences and effectively signals a change of interpretation (if not policy) at the Environment Agency/ DEFRA. [].

The SGV Task Force was set up following a ‘stakeholder workshop’ in November 2004, at which the AGS was well represented. Simon Edwards (Merebrook) and Seamus Le Froy Brookes (LBH Wembley) have since attended Task Force meetings on behalf of the AGS – and the views of the AGS were canvassed by means of a ‘Mirror Group’ and via the normal meetings of the Contaminated Land Working Group.

The remit of the Task Force is very wide, embracing matters as diverse as the continuing professional development of those involved in contaminated land through to the detail of toxicological risk assessment.

It has been recognised by industry for some time that some of the published SGVs were at concentrations at or around background concentrations. There must be very few working in this area who have not struggled with the benzo(a)pyrene question! However, the initial view of the Health Protection Agency (HPA) and Environment Agency regulators were that these were very hazardous chemicals and exposure should therefore be kept as low as possible. A year of persuasion has now borne fruit in the form of CLAN 02/05 which formally recognises that there is a big difference between the published SGVs and the concentrations of contaminants in the soil which would be capable of presenting a real hazard to people living on that land – in the terminology “a significant possibility of significant harm” [or SPOSH – how we love our acronyms!].

In some of the key sections, this Note, comments that:

  • SGVs mark the concentration of contamination in soil where tolerable or minimal risks would result from exposure

  • Exceedence of the SGV indicates further assessment or remedial action may be needed

  • Concentrations at or marginally above SGVs would not necessarily meet the legal tests [in Circular 02/2000], for determining “Contaminated Land” (as defined in Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act 1990).

Of course, helpful as these statements are, one key question now begs to be answered. Namely, how far above the SGV does the concentration have to be to meet the “unacceptable intake” test. In the deadpan language of Sir Humphrey, CLAN 02/05 says that “at the present time the published Defra/Environment Agency technical guidance on risk assessment does not address this issue”. Clearly, the publication of such guidance is critical. No timetable has been set by the Task Force, but the clamour from both regulator and regulated for urgent resolution, surely can not be ignored.

Of course one has to ask where this leaves all those affected by sites designated by local authorities as “Contaminated Land” on the basis of marginal exceedence of SGVs.

The work of the SGV Task Force continues, no longer under the auspices of the Cabinet Office, but under English Partnerships’ Brownfield Strategy, under the chairmanship of Jane Forshaw (CEO of CL:AIRE (Contaminated Land: Applications in Real Environments)). There is no doubt that pressure from industry and political determination at the Cabinet Office has at last made real progress but much remains to be done. In addition to the thorny issue of what constitutes soil concentrations capable of providing an unacceptable intake, progress on the publication of the SGVs themselves remains painfully slow.

The Agency has recently released the updated version of the CLEA UK risk assessment model for a trial period until April 2006 []. Formal ratification and publication of that model remains high on industry’s agenda.

It is clearly vital that the momentum needed to make progress in all these areas, which has started to develop as a result of the Task Force, must continue. The AGS will of course continue to support its work but it is vital that the absence of the Cabinet Office does not allow Defra/ the EA and the HPA to return to the previous snail’s pace.

Hugh Mallett

Article Contaminated Land

Mobile Plant Licences to become “Simpler, Faster, Lower-cost & Consistent”

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A joint Government and Industry Task Force established towards the end of 2004 has now reached agreement on the best way to resolve problems concerned with mobile plant licensing.

The Task Force was ask to deal with three main problems:-

1. Multiple licenses operated across multiple sites 2. Inconsistency in enforcement and no single point of contact for operators. 3. Speed of applications and poor clarity of information requirements.

Under the new system a single license (to be called a Mobile Treatment Licence) will be issued for a given remediation technology. The license will be able to be utilised across multiple sites. A new ‘Deployment Form’ will be adopted which will identify all key data including the applicants account manager, any site specific information and a guide as to what other permits may possibly be required.

A system of EA Account Managers will be established providing improved accountability, better communication and a single point of contact for industry –

The new system is expected to have a number of beneficial effects – not least of which will be a significant reduction in the regulatory burden placed on operators – and hopefully a reduction in the cost when plant is not in use.

It is also hoped that the reduced cost and more efficient bureaucracy will encourage the development of new technologies and reduce the amount of waste going to landfill.

Application forms and guidance for the new MTL will be available from October. Existing holders of MPL should have been contacted by the EA in early June and will be sent a further letter in due course to explain what they have to do to obtain the new licence. There will be a 6 month transition period and existing licences will be valid until April 2006.

Finally, changes to the Waste Regulations which came into effect on 1 July have broadened the definition of mobile plant. Previously this only covered soil, but now covers the treatment of contaminated materials, substances and products (e.g. the treatment of groundwater).

For information on who to contact regarding licences call the EA National Customer Contact Centre on 0870 8506506 – or local EA offices (although they will not have information until nearer October.)

Article Contaminated Land Data Management Laboratories

SGV Task Force

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The Soil Guideline Values Taskforce (SGV TF) is a joint initiative between Government Departments, local authorities and other private and public sector stakeholder groups with the primary objective of providing a means of improving the production programme for Soil Guideline Values.

The group was originally set up by the Cabinet Office Business Regulation Team in 2004 in response to perceived delays in the delivery programme for soil guidelines values. The task force originally comprised public sector bodies (Cabinet Office, ODPM, DEFRA, Food Standards Agency, Health Protection Agency and Environment Agency) who are instrumental in the production process. Following a workshop in November 2004 at which a wider cross-section of interested parties were present, the SGV TF was expanded and a number of other parties are represented on the current task force including the AGS.

Business in 2005 has focused on addressing four principal questions which were highlighted at the November workshop as being the most pressing-

i) What do SGVs mean and when should they be used?
ii) How do we speed up production?
iii) What do we do in situations when SGVs generated by the usual methods are very low (below ambient levels or close to or below detection limits)?
iv) What do we do about training and information dissemination?

Since the beginning of 2005 there have been three meetings of the expanded task force resulting in some good progress and interesting debate from various parties.

The first and very fundamental questions above has been considered by a sub-group of the task force. Their report will take the form of a draft guidance document on what an SGV is and how SGVs should be applied. This may in due course be released as part of the CLR series or as an addendum to an existing document.

The question of speeding up production of SGVs has occupied a significant amount of task force time. The EA has resource and time limitations which are also called upon in the programme for development of the CLEA UK model, release of which is expected this summer /autumn. Interesting debate revolves around whether SGV production should take precedence over further examination of the algorithms / assumptions in CLEA. (The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health is particularly emphatic in their wish for the SGV’s to be produced as soon as possible). The AGS and EIC representatives have been more in favour of concentrating effort into refining models to attempt to reduce, or remove, some of the problems associated with “low” SGVs.

Positive moves have been made toward increasing production capability, including proposals to double the EA team by funding two new posts and by attempting to recruit a private sector secondee partially funded by public sector monies.

On other issues, a sub-group has been set up to identify training needs and to produce initial models of how these can be satisfied. In addition the EA has published on its website the first of what will be a series of bulletins on the CLEA programme.

Simon Edwards Merebrook Environmental Engineering Consultants