By the time you read this it will be clear whether or not 1 April will be the start date for the Environmental Protection Act Part IIA - the revised guidance and contaminated land regulations. To meet the deadline it had to be laid before parliament by 28 January. Nevertheless, the DETR and Environment Agency seem to have stepped up a gear or two in their preparations for the new regime.
The Environment Agency has written a process manual to assist staff in implementing the regime and a training package is being prepared to enable staff to use the manual effectively. A sister manual and training package for local authorities is to be prepared over the next few months.
At the 11th Conference on Contaminated Land at the end of last month, 15 presentations provided the annual update on legal, policy and technical developments.
Simon Pollard from the Environment Agency National Centre for Risk Analysis and Options Appraisal explained the Agency's commitment to risk assessment as a means of formalising expert judgement and facilitating decision making and prioritising action.
He pointed out that increasing use of quantitative risk assess- ment has not been accompanied by improved use of conceptual site models and illustrated the use of cross sections and network diagrams to communicate the conceptual model.
Jim Finnamore (LGC) reported that the CIRIA project on Land Contamination: Control of financial risk was nearing completion and would include guidance to stakeholders on how to manage financial risk in transactions, liability assessment and other activities. Bob Gregory of the University of Nottingham Land Quality Management division described a number of risk assessment packages for assessing the risks to human health from volatile emissions from landfills - a frequently ignored aspect of landfill investigations.
Richard Swannell and Guy Holford from AEA Technology Environment described the Groundview data management solution they have developed around Arc/View to assist local authorities find contaminated land.
Having implemented the system in Oxford and Newcastle, they found that a day's training was all it took to get the local authority staff up and running on the system.
Parkman Environment's Hilary Townley described a study of worker and public exposure to contaminants during remediation projects. She recommended dermal exposure and metabolite monitoring and the need for explicit protocols on how monitoring should be carried out.
Caroline McCaffrey of LQM reported that the Internet contains only limited information for use in risk assessments. The most reliable information is that from the US EPA but that search engines give low priority to scientific information so finding the right site can be difficult. There clearly needs to be a moderated or otherwise quality controlled gateway to contaminated land information on the web.
Alistair Kean of Biologic shared his experiences of mobile plant licences and said that although the current situation is a great improvement on where we were even two years ago, delays, cost and inconsistency are still too high. He pointed out that DETR is considering a review of licensing carried out by the Urban Task Force and that the Mobile Plant Licences are seen as an interim measure only.
Finally, Alex Ritchie from the NHBC reported on the first 12 months of the NHBC Contaminated Land Cover and Chapter 4.1 of its Standards.
Feedback from builders on 4.1 has been positive and appreciative of its improved consistency.
Paul Nathanail, director of the Land Quality Management division at Nottingham University