Waste not want not

Are contaminated soils waste? IKM's Alistair Keen, newly elected Chair of the Environmental Industries Commission (EIC) Contaminated Land Working Group concludes, well, yes and no...

Having recently been elected Chair of the Environmental Industries Commission (EIC) Contaminated Land Working Group, I thought it might be useful to set out what the EIC is, what the Working Group does and what the key issues being discussed are.

The Contaminated Land Working Group is one of the most active of the 12 Working Groups within the EIC. Meetings are held quarterly, usually in London, and are attended by some 50-plus delegates on each occasion. The next meeting of the Contaminated Land Working Group, in a break from tradition, will be held at the International Clean Up Exhibition at Manchester's G-Mex Centre on 19 March 2002.

Remediation licensing
At present a number of issues of concern to the Contaminated Land Working Group are being addressed with regulatory authorities and government. One of the EIC's main functions is to lobby parliament and civil servants for improvements in legislation and enforcement of existing legislation that will benefit the UK environmental technologies and services industry. A number of issues relating to Part IIa of the Environment Act, the Waste Management Regulations and IPPC are at present of concern.

One area of continuing concern is the issue of contaminated land remediation licensing. At present, contaminated soils are categorised as waste, and accordingly contaminated land remediation very often falls under the auspices of the Waste Management Regulations. This has led to a number of legal standpoints being taken by the regulators over the years, which are at odds with the government's aim of increasing the amount of sustainable re-use of brownfield sites.

The Mobile Plant Licensing (MPL) regime, which has facilitated the on-site remediation of a great many sites, was instigated primarily through EIC lobbying. Although the MPL system is less than perfect, it does at least allow on-site remediation to continue, which would otherwise not have been the case.

Laid to waste
One area of interest for the Contaminated Land Working Group is the concept of a Single Regeneration Licence. It is being promoted at present by a number of EIC member companies with the support of the Environment Agency and DEFRA. This, if it comes to fruition, will remove many of the inconsistencies in the current regulations. Following EIC lobbying, a DEFRA-supported working group is at present being set up with a view to reporting to government and civil servants next year on how a Single Regeneration Licence could be facilitated. At present it seems likely that it might be fitted into forthcoming IPPC Regulations. The EIC Contaminated Land Group is actively involved in this Working Group.

Another area exercising member companies at the moment is the very issue of contaminated soils being categorised as waste. One unfortunate consequence of this definition is, for example, the fact that soils won from excavations for foundations may be categorised as waste as the intention was to discard the soil rather than to win clean soil. Another consequence is that, under the Waste Management Regulations, no soil containing List 1 or List 2 substances may be returned to the ground during a waste management activity that will impact on groundwater. Obviously soils post bioremediation that have been cleaned up to a risk assessed level may indeed discharge minute quantities of oil to groundwater. As a consequence of this it is possible that post-bioremediation soils being returned to the ground may be categorised as landfill. Obviously this situation is undesirable and the EIC is lobbying DEFRA, the Environment Agency and SEPA to have these matters reviewed.

The Group is also actively involved in influencing issues such as the implementation of the Landfill Directive, R&D support for the industry and the Landfill Tax Credit Scheme.

The Working Group also has the opportunity to comment on forthcoming legislation and discussion papers at an early date. More useful information comes from the briefings given by key industry or regulatory figures during the quarterly meetings. So, if you want to be at the heart of the contaminated land industry, get involved with the EIC!



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