No more dig and dump

The pressure is mounting to cut landfill and treat contaminated land. The ICU 2006 exhibition highlights the latest legislation and technologies involved, writes John Haven

Thanks to a raft of legislation coming from Europe, and the Government’s focus on brownfield development, contaminated land is now an important issue for landowners, developers and consultants. No longer is it acceptable to just “dig and dump”. The pressure is mounting on companies and local authorities to reduce landfill and treat contaminated land.

Industrial development has left a legacy of contaminated land across the UK. Recent Environment Agency figures estimate that in the UK alone, there are around 20,000 potentially contaminated sites. And this contamination has to be dealt with – by law – before any development can take place.

Since the introduction of the Landfill Directive, the contaminated-land sector has expanded enormously – certainly it has significantly increased the cost of disposing of contaminated soils from brownfield redevelopment projects. And, with almost two thirds of contaminated land in England and Wales undergoing remediation, technological innovations and the latest industry developments are permanently on the agenda of those in the industry.

This makes International Clean Up (ICU) 2006 a key date in the industry diary. Running at Birmingham’s NEC from 16-18 May, ICU is a forum for property developers, environmental consultants, local authorities and anyone with a professional or business interest in identifying and remediating contaminated land. It will highlight the latest legislation and showcase new technologies.

Every member country of the EU has to comply with the Landfill Directive – which came into force in July 2002, aimed at reducing waste ending up in landfill sites, by 35% of that produced in 1995, by 2020.

In the UK, targets are being delivered through the Landfill Allowance Trading Scheme (LATS) where each waste disposal authority (usually local councils) will be able to determine how to use its allocation of allowances in the most effective way. Authorities are charged for every tonne they go over their landfill allowance, so it could prove costly if alternative strategies, such as the remediation of contaminated land, are not put in place.

In 2000, the New Contaminated Land regime was introduced under Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act (EPA) 1990 to provide a coherent strategy

for identifying, assessing and remediating historically contaminated land. They also provided detailed rules for assigning liability based on “the polluter pays” principle – and, if the original polluter cannot be found, then the current landowner or developer gets the clean-up bill. Local authorities now have a responsibility to proactively inspect their areas and ensure the remediation of any contaminated land. A consultation is currently under way to extend Part IIA to include land contaminated by radioactivity. This is due to be completed in the next couple of months.

Part IIA is not the only way that land contamination is tackled. Planning and building control also deals with it, along with urban regeneration initiatives, voluntary action by landowners and industry, and the arrangements which protect the environment from the impacts of current human activity, such as waste-management controls.

From July this year, another EU directive is being introduced to help lessen the amount of hazardous waste into landfills. The Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) is an extension of the Waste Electrical and Electronics Equipment Directive (WEEE Directive), which encourages the design of electronic products with environmentally safe recycling in mind. RoHS dovetails into this by reducing the amount of hazardous substances used in product manufacture. It bans the use of lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyls (PBB) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE) in the manufacture of certain electrical products which could come on to the EU market. This has the knock-on effect of reducing the need for handling and treatment and places fewer toxins into landfills and the environment. Non-compliance could lead to a hefty fine or even a prison sentence.

However, with many contaminated soil streams now attracting expensive hazardous waste-disposal rates at landfill, alternatives to the traditional “dig and dump” have become necessary to ensure that some projects are economically viable. After all, if interested parties do not adhere to the plethora of

legislation both at EU and UK level, a fine is the only alternative.

For example, take a brownfield site covered with the notorious Japanese knotweed. The Environment Act (EPA) 1990 states that any material contaminated with the plant has to be classified as controlled waste. That leads to a headache for the developer as an infringement of the EPA could lead to enforcement action by the Environment Agency. The developer cannot wait three years to rid the site with a herbicide, so the only alternative is digging up the plant and taking the soil to landfill. With the advent of the Landfill Directive and the associated costs of meeting all the regulations regarding notifiable waste digging and dumping, this is neither cost-effective nor conclusive for the plant’s removal.

Hence, more and more companies are being encouraged to develop innovative ways of treating contaminated soil. Again, many of these can be seen at the ICU.

Thurlow Countryside Management (TCM) will be showcasing its unique approach to the Japanese knotweed at this year’s exhibition. Whether for road, rail or construction industry applications, TCM can develop bespoke methodologies to solve any invasive weed problem – specialising in guaranteed eradication of Japanese knotweed in one growing season – based on its revolutionary Holistic Integrated Treatment (HIT) system.

The HIT system comprises a range of cultural and chemical methods developed exclusively by the company. Significantly, HIT increases the effectiveness of the herbicidal treatment method, to the extent that complete eradication can be achieved within the growing season. The upside is that clients can be provided with a specified site access date as part of the contract methodology, simplifying their project planning and scheduling.

Churngold Remediation is another company that has met the changes in legislation and landfill classification head on by developing on-site treatment centres known as soil surgeries. These units receive and treat contaminated soil removed from the developer’s site.

In the late 1980s, bioremediation was the answer to everything. But the industry was quick to cotton on to the fact that success in a jar did not necessarily mean success on site, and the market stalled. However, as the industry approached the turn of the millennium, the market rallied as improvements in remediation solutions restored faith in the products.

Some industry figures believe the future lies with chemical oxidization (chemox). QDS Environmental has long been using powerful oxidants such as Fenton’s Reagent and Permanganate as part of the remediation of large-scale UK projects. Clive Boyle, director at QDS, believes on-site remediation has a place as dig and dump solutions become more costly. He says: “With the majority of projects being development or disinvestment driven, speed and certainty of outcome are critical factors to those commissioning remediation works. The range of in-situ chemical oxidation techniques, now tried and tested on more than 30 projects in UK, can reliably deliver remediation objectives on appropriate sites in weeks rather than months.

“This speed, with the flexibility of an in-situ approach, often allowing remediation to be integrated with development, will ensure that chemox continues to feature strongly in the remediation toolbox.”

The ICU will showcase many of the efficient and fast remediation solutions that now exist and that are beginning to lead the market. They are cost effective, do not require on-site chemical equipment, and work quickly. Importantly, they can be adapted from small domestic jobs to large-scale commercial development sites.

ICU will be alongside the ET and Nemex exhibitions at the NEC 16-18 May, providing a one-stop shop for customers looking for a solution to environmental or energy management issues or wanting to buy new products and services.

For more information call 020 8651 7100

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