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EA admits advice flaws

The contaminated land licensing debate continues, with Environment Agency staff admitting that previous guidance for developers was ambiguous.

Licensing contaminated land remediation reared its head again recently. September saw the end ofthe two-month consultation period on the Environment Agency's proposals on how the regime should operate.

The draft proposals are available on the EA website (www.environment-agency.gov.uk) and the final version is expected any day.

Agency staffgave evidence at a public inquiry to the effect that it had made errors on several sites throughout the country, in accepting that a licence was not required when in fact it should have been.

Staffalso admitted that the EA Interim Guide to Developers (1998) was a poorly worded ambiguous document that had at least one crucial omission.

The EIC contaminated land working group has also been discussing the issue, following a proposal that one solution would be to make all remediation exempt from licensing - something the regulators would find difficulty in squaring with the wording ofthe law as it stands.

The UK was well represented at the recent Consoil conference in Leipzig, Germany. The conference brought together a global audience interested in all aspects ofcontaminated land, from policy and regulation, assessment and management to financial and economic considerations.

Delegates had the opportunity to see a number of imaginative approaches to remediation, including a proposed refurbishment ofa derelict gasometer into a cultural centre. The proceedings represent a useful summary of global progress since the last Consoil, held in Edinburgh in 1998.

Meanwhile, output from research funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation is presented in Paul Syms' new book Building homes on used land, published by RICS Books. It presents 10 case studies of brownfield land that have been redeveloped for housing and represents part of the JRF 'Policies into practice' programme.

Problems confronting developers of previously used land are examined in some depth. The case studies offer four lessons for housing developers and their advisers, applicable to all redevelopment situat ions:

The need for a comprehensive site investigation, of which the historic study of land use forms an essential part.

The need for a comprehensive written and photographic record, including waste handling notes, of all remediation works.

The need for validation to demonstrate compliance with the strategy and achievement of the remediation goals.

The need for factually correct and readily assimilated information on past uses, site investigations and remediation works to be made available to purchasers and tenants.

The book deserves a wide readership and its message should be taken on board by those considering how to encourage the sustainable remediation of land affected by contamination.

A DTI-sponsored project has just started that will develop tools to link 3D conceptual site models to real-time video imagery ofa site, allowing non-specialists to gain a clearer understanding ofthe relationship between subsurface conditions and above ground features.

The project is described at www.augmentedreality.co.uk The Environmental Engineering Research Centre at Queens University, Belfast has established an EPSRCfunded Permeable Reactive Barrier Network (PRB-net).

This aims to bring together interested parties from academia, industry, consulting and government, to establish connections and further PRB technology.

Planned activities include workshops, a conference and a website. Further information from prb. net@qub. ac. uk A large-scale integrated research project for treatment zone technologies (TZT) and reactive barriers technologies (PRB) in Germany was launched by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (Bundesministerium fur Bildung und Forschung) in May.

The network has funds ofECU4M and will run over the next three years. It will collate and evaluate results from German TZT projects to assess applicability, longevity, performance, efficiency and rentability ofTZTs in general.

Further information is available from birke@fhnon. de A survey ofremedial techniques for land contamination in England and Wales has obeen published by the Environment Agency (RefTRP401) and is available from www.wrcplc.com.

The survey identified 367 sites remediated between 1996 and 1999, the majority ofwhich involved civil engineering-based techniques.

Cost was found to be the major factor influencing selection.

Another EA report, Assessing the wider environmental value of remediating land contamination: A review (TR P 238), presents a platform for the development of guidance on assessing one element in sustainable development: the wider environmental impacts of remediation.

This stems from interest in achieving sustainable development among the stakeholders of contaminated sites in the UK. A qualitative approach for assessing the wider environmental effects of remediation would help provide:

A technical basis for discussion about the wider environmental effects of remediation.

A framework that allows different stakeholders to discuss on a common basis differing points of view and agendas for wider environmental impacts.

A comparison ofthe wider environmental impacts, at least as a ranking for different remedial approaches being considered for particular sites.

Paul Nathanail is course director ofthe MSc in contaminated land management at the University ofNottingham, email: ground.engineering@lqm.co.uk

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