Phase 1 Desk Top Study

A risk assessment is carried out to ascertain the broad potential risk of contamination using a well tried and tested model. This risk is established via a desktop study and walkover survey. The desktop study entails the collection and review of historical data covering previous uses of the site, historical and present neighbouring land use and other searches of environmental records. Walkover surveys can also be employed to visually survey and detect possible sites of contamination. Using the findings concerning previous site activity, further technical research is conducted examining the precise types and quantities of chemicals potentially present at the site, their behaviour and effects on the local environment.

On the basis of the study, a risk management decision can be made on whether or not further information should be collected, and if so, how. After each assessment, the surveyor can conclude either that remediation action needs to be taken or that too little is known about the site to draw conclusions. In the case of the latter, more detailed risk assessments must be carried out. Risk assessments can progress as required from preliminary to generic and to detailed, with the level of complexity increasing with each one.

Phase 2 – Geological – GeoTechnical Studies

An intrusive site investigation can be carried out to gain a better understanding of the site conditions and characteristics concerning soil and groundwater contamination. Intrusive site investigations should include the installation of boreholes or excavation of trial pits to obtain water and soil samples. The extent of the intrusive investigation depends on the quality and quantity of information required, and should be carried out in compliance with the relevant British Standards Codes of Practices. The samples are then sent to an accredited laboratory for analysis and testing to detect contaminants identified in the desktop study, the results of which are written up in an interpretative report.

Phase 3 – Assessment and Remediation

Once the degree of contamination, if present, has been ascertained, the project enters the ‘options appraisal’ phase. This is where the kind of remediation work required to clean up the contamination is decided upon. Each of the options available to you needs to be assessed in depth. Factors for assessment include the time required for given approach to reduce contamination; the suitability of a given approach for the site, taking into account site size and ease of access; the costs involved; and any legal approval or permissions required.

Your remediation specialist should draw up a detailed report summarising your remediation strategy. Next, a conceptual implementation report is produced, based on the remediation strategy, explaining how the strategy will be put into action. This report should be produced in consultation with all sectors who have an interest in the land, including neighbours and local authorities.

Safety and effectiveness are both paramount when it comes to the actual implementation of your remediation strategy. Permits and regulatory approvals must be sought and, if necessary, trials will be carried out to test the effectiveness of the chosen remediation technique. The progress of remedial works needs to be monitored and documented, the details of which should be outlined in a verification plan. Progress should be recorded in a verification report produced at the end of the remediation strategy implementation, certifying the final condition of the site.

A further plan should be produced outlining what, if any, longer-term maintenance or monitoring is required. This longer-term plan should be kept under review, but any changes regarding monitoring or maintenance will have to be approved by the relevant regulatory bodies. Thorough and accurate record-keeping is important at every stage of the process, recording what action was taken, when, and how the decision was arrived at.

When Is An Investigation Necessary?

The government seeks to increase drastically the number of houses being built over the coming years to relieve the housing crisis. Brownfield sites represent the perfect opportunity for many land developers. Brownfield land is that previously used for industrial purposes. These sites are usually located within urban areas, reducing the rate of suburban sprawl and thus car usage, helping instead to make the most efficient use of existing transport and waste management services.

The legacy of prior industrial use of brownfield sites often persists in the presence of pollution or contamination on, under or around the site. Whilst this can present a challenge, the increasing demand for brownfield land reclamation provides the opportunity to encourage more eco-friendly and sustainable living, due to the fact that the land must be cleaned up before use.

Beyond brownfield sites, local authorities often make planning permission conditional on developers investigating potential land contamination. Where it's found, developers must carry out remedial work to clean the land to a standard where no risk is posed to users of the site. The developer gets planning permission for relatively cheap land, while the local authority sees potentially dangerous contaminants removed from the neighbourhood.

Therefore, it is crucial that developers carry out an investigation into the extent of contamination to avoid purchasing land where the costs of remedial work might be unfeasible.

For more information as to the support that Argyll Environmental can provide, please do check out our case studies and contact us if you need more information.

Need something else?

These consultancy services have been designed to support the redevelopment, transaction, corporate decision-making or investment(s) in land and property. If you require something more bespoke, or a variation of any of the listed services, then we would love to hear from you.

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