DEFRA funding maintains impetus for clean up

Government funding initiatives and pilot regeneration projects help to stimulate new solutions in cleaning up the UK's legacy of contaminated sites

Environment Minister Elliot Morley has urged local authorities in England to bid for DEFRA funding to help find and clean up contaminated land. Over £17 million is available this year to help councils identify contaminated sites and, where necessary, reduce risks to human health and the environment through capital projects.

Mr Morley said: "Our local authorities have important responsibilities for finding and dealing with contaminated land. While many contaminated sites are picked up through development proposals and regeneration activity, local authorities also need financial support to identify sites that need action here and now."

Under DEFRA's contaminated land capital projects programme, to date the department has provided around £158 million to local authorities for their capital works projects under the programme. Over 180 applications were received in 2003/04, of which 160 were approved and 135 have resulted in expenditure supported by the programme. This support has benefited some 57 local authorities last year alone. Bids are assessed by the Environment Agency and DEFRA for priority and value for money. Support is delivered to successful authorities via additions to their Revenue Support Grant (RSG).

Current examples

Two example projects quoted by DEFRA are:

  • Around £2.6 million has been provided for the remediation of two nearby housing estates in Manchester - High Legh & Old Lane estates, Higher Openshaw. Some 116 properties were affected, covering 8.3 acres (3.4 ha). The sites were former landfills where the soil was found to be contaminated by arsenic chromium, lead, nickel, cadmium, mercury and PAHs. Remedial works were mainly excavation of contaminated soils and replacement by clean material. Support for the remediation started in 2002/03 and works are nearing completion.
  • Around £479,000 was provided for the remediation of a school playing field, wooded and landscaped areas at a primary school in the London Borough of Richmond (Nelson Primary School, Whitton). The land on which the school had been built was levelled using building and municipal waste, before being landscaped and used as a playing field. It was recently found that the site was contaminated with lead, zinc, arsenic, nickel, cadmium and PAHs. Remedial works involved containment technology, some excavation and replacement of soil, installation of a multi-layered capping system, and landscaping. These works were completed in November 2004.
  • Pilot programme launched

    In another initiative, a pilot programme aimed at solving England's legacy of long-term derelict land has been launched in 12 local authority areas. The initiative is being jointly led by national regeneration agency, English Partnerships, and the ODPM as part of a wider national strategy that aims to bring England's 66,000 ha (164,000 acres) of brownfield land back into beneficial use. Research carried out by English Partnerships has identified more than 2,000 long-term or "hardcore" sites nationally that have lain vacant or derelict since at least 1993.

    A further 4,500 sites, with a total area in excess of 8,500 ha (21,000 acres), are suffering from medium-term dereliction, having been vacant or derelict for at least five years.

    There are 12 pilot areas around the country. A short-list of long and medium-term derelict sites will be identified in each area and practical studies undertaken to assess the barriers to employment or housing development or to returning the land to recreational or natural use. In each case work will be led by a "local brownfield partnership", that will include representatives from English Partnerships, the local authority, RDAs (Regional Development Agencies), development industry, local business and community groups.

    Regeneration sites

    On the regeneration front countrywide, current projects include a major 15 acre brownfield regeneration project at the former Stoneclough Paper Mill site in Kearsley, Greater Manchester, where the Encia Group is assisting Countryside Properties.

    Encia Demolition was commissioned to demolish the old mill buildings safely removing all above ground structures whilst reclaiming slates, timber, cables, generators and bricks.

    The large amounts of asbestos presented a particular problem for the team due to the steel beams surrounding the redundant printing presses having been sprayed with limpet asbestos. Encia co-ordinated the subsequent removal of notifiable and non-notifiable asbestos under controlled conditions. This was a complex and time-consuming process taking four months to complete.

    Encia Remediation has recently been appointed to remove Japanese knotweed from the river bank adjoining the site, eradicate contamination hotspots and re-engineer the ground in order to create a suitable development platform for residential build.

    West Midlands project

    Also on the site treatment front, WSP Remediation is nearing completion of a £2.2 million contract, on behalf of Persimmon Homes, to undertake the remediation of a former automotive manufacturing plant in Bromsgrove, West Midlands, and enable its redevelopment for residential housing and a business park. The 56 acre works, operational for approximately 50 years, finally fell into receivership in the year 2000. Throughout its working life, many potentially contaminative operations took place..

    Investigations into the specific nature of these contaminants were carried out by WSP Environmental. The first identified the general conditions and impacted areas of the site, the second further investigated the former tip on its South West boundary. These investigations identified large areas of the site to be impacted with hydrocarbons, as well as PCBs and Asbestos within the tip area. Plumes of oil where also encountered on the groundwater that required further delineation. The information gained from these investigations along with an in depth Quantitative Risk assessment enabled a remediation strategy to be developed by WSP and approved by the regulatory authorities.

    Soils impacted with hydrocarbons have been treated ex-situ by WSP using proprietary bioremediation technology. The process involves screening of the soil to remove oversize material followed by addition of nutrients and organic additives to optimise treatment conditions. The soil is then formed into windrows, covered and monitored to control the hydrocarbon breakdown. To date approximately 20,000 cubic metres of soil have been excavated and successfully treated, with the landowner benefiting from WSP's certification that required standards have been achieved. In order to achieve the recovery of the free product from the groundwater, WSP remediation have installed and operated four Dual Phase Vacuum Extraction and Monitoring systems that include over 250 wells. So far these systems have recovered over 15,000 litres of free product in order to reduce the plume thicknesses from the maximum of over four metres to asymptotic levels.

    The remediation operation also included the selective excavation and disposal of PCB contaminated soils, which were not treatable, some of which were disposed for incineration.


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