New EA licensing guidelines issued for clean-up technologies

The announcement of new Environment Agency guidelines for licensing technologies to clean up contaminated land is being welcomed as a major victory by the contaminated land remediation industry, for whom previously the problems of obtaining an operating licence were threatening to halt on-site clean-up and leave developers with little choice but to opt for landfill.

Where most remediation activity is required to be regulated under Part II of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, following meetings between the Environment Agency and Environment Minister Michael Meacher earlier this year, the Agency has announced its total commitment to “encouraging the remediation of contaminated sites and avoiding the creation of inappropriate regulatory burdens”.

To that effect, the Agency has stated, as a short term key priority, its intention to “make the application of the waste management licensing system clearer and more consistent”.

One of the first stages in this work has been the development by the Agency of an interim application package for mobile plant licences for land remediation. The package sets out a nationally consistent approach for Environment Agency officers to licence remediation technologies using Mobile Plant Licences.

Clear and swift process

Regulation 12(2) of the Waste Management Licensing Regu-lations 1994, as amended, prescribes types of plant being ‘mobile plant’ for the purpose of treating or disposing of waste. The current types of prescribed ‘mobile plant’ are: certain incinerators; plant for the recovery, by filtration or heat treatment, of waste oil from electrical equipment; plant for the destruction, by dechlorination, of waste PCBs or PCTs; plant for the vitrification of waste; plant for the treatment, by microwave, of clinical waste; and plant for treatment of waste soil.

Land remediation companies will now have a clear and relatively swift process by which to licence their technologies and start cleaning up contaminated land.

The Agency’s guidelines follow a year-long campaign by the Environmental Industries Commission (EIC) to “overcome the regulatory failures stopping the development of new technologies to clean up contaminated land”. The EIC’s report, Barriers to the Introduction of New Technologies for the Remediation of Contaminated Land, highlighted the risk to the Government’s policy of encouraging house building on brownfield sites “because of failures of regulatory and R&D policies to support British remediation technologies”.

The Report warned that the UK is threatened by a flood of imports of foreign remediation technologies at a time when there are over 50,000 contaminated sites in the UK, constituting a clean-up market of some £10-30bn.

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