Northern Ireland publishes new soil rules

Guidance has been published covering how, where and when soil excavated from construction sites can be used elsewhere in Northern Ireland.

The organisation is claiming that the guidance – which has the backing of industry groups as well as the environmental watchdog – is step forward for the province’s economy as well as its environment.

It covers soil from newly-developed greenfield sites, rather than potentially-contaminated soils from brownfields.

Northern Ireland’s Environment Minister Edwin Poots said: “I firmly believe that the pursuit of environmental and economic goals is complimentary. I particularly welcome the joint working between NIEA and the construction industry to produce this guidance.

“One of the most important aims of my department is landfill diversion. This is not only due to the financial implications of impending EU infraction fines but because it goes against the grain to bury valuable resources in to the ground.

“This guidance provides sensible regulations and solutions that are proportionate and effective yet risk-based. This will ensure what was formerly classified as ‘waste’ can be re-used sustainably whilst still protecting the environment and human health.”

John Armstrong, managing director of the Construction Employers Federation added: “We very much welcome this new guidance. In the past, our members could not understand why clean topsoil or other useful soils could be classified as ‘waste’.

“This new guidance will help streamline the re-use of soil while still protecting the environment.

“The federation encourages the industry to move soils responsibly and in accordance with this new guidance in order to demonstrate that we can self-regulate responsibly.

“This will build confidence with the regulator and prove that this type of ‘lighter-touch’ can work for both the industry and the environment.”

The new guidance clearly lays down conditions under which uncontaminated, greenfield soil from construction sites can be re-used sustainably without the requirement for environmental regulatory controls.

It can be found online here.

Sam Bond

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