New study aimed to unveil solutions to contaminated sites

Two Government agencies are investing time and money into looking for potential ways of 'managing and assessing' risks to human health from 'volatile' chemicals in the ground on brownfield sites.

A review will be carried out looking for vapours from VOCs (volatile organic

carbon) and other trace gases from contaminated ground on brownfield sites.

CIRIA, a research and information organisation specialising in the construction industry, will run the new research project.

Assessment and management of VOCs generated from brownfield sites will result in a guidance tool to be used by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) as well as the Environment Agency (EA).

The detailed guide, which will be published at the end of the research period, will involve three tiers of risk assessment, as well as a detailed investigation of VOCs. Areas including any intrusion to the soil will be examined, as well vapour concentration in the ground and beneath the buildings, and looking for building properties relevant to assessing vapour intrusion potential including techniques to measure soil gas ingress rates and building ventilation rates.

Brownfield sites are a major source interest for government as building plans develop for new housing across the country. In a pledge earlier this year, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said that three million new homes would be built by 2020 in the UK, predominantly on previously developed brownfield sites.

Many construction professionals experience difficulties in assessing the potential risks to developments from gases, CIRIA says, which has raised concerns with insurers, who have become increasingly unwilling to provide policies for engineers and clients redeveloping different types of sites where volatile chemicals may be present in the ground or at sites near landfills and mines.

CIRIA will be working with the Energy Institute on this project and the guidance will aim to be consistent and ‘provide an important extension and compatibility with the likely approach proposed by Defra and being developed by the Environment Agency,’ a statement said.

Dana Gornitzki

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