Contaminated Land – Research data

Reported is that research is ramping up into the number of areas responsible, or have responsibility for management of contaminated land. Worldwide, it appears the impediment to date has been the concern of uncovering unintended consequences by the actions that might be taken. This is understandable if you add that in order to take notice you need to understand the problem. It also follows that any data collection effort will serve as a proving ground for a methodology to deal with the problems that are uncovered. That in itself introduces another problem in that developing a Methodology requires funding or promises for funding.

Knowing that even governments have funding issues internal to themselves we could ask: So where should we start in Australia?  The immediate noticeable group addressing the quality of data issues of ‘real’ remediation challenges is the federal Department of Finance and Deregulation (DoFD) which has a Special Claims and Policy Branch that is leading a strategic data collection project examining the manner in which contamination issues are addressed. However, its purpose is to address Commonwealth Land Decisions-making and gather data only from entities covered under the FMA Act (Government Agencies) and CMA Act (Authorities). The Department has set out the project is to be collecting information in the earlier part of 2013. Whilst a let down to some, it is a start to identifying the effort needed.

Concurrently, Canada is turning its attention to those that refuse to clean up where they have polluted, and Environment Canada is beginning feasibility studies of remediation technologies that could be used on federal properties contaminated by chemicals.  Source: http://mobile.firehouse.com/news . A watching brief on Canada’s and other overseas, state and private groups suggests it is very wise to manage contamination within property decision-making groups and that they undertake research into solutions under key terms that may be available to reference available literature and what might be uncovered.

What CO2Land org has noted is that DoFD is finding the need to validate their understanding of the Commonwealth’s legal obligations relating to contamination liability – to clarify what they must manage as opposed to should manage.  (Those that follow this thread might recall – Posted on January 6, 2013 by co2land, Contaminated Land – Obligations to manage – was written to help the reader to understand that managing the environment means many things and it is not necessarily so that moral decisions will be made). This implies there are many areas of uncertainty and any contamination related advice would be welcome to help them target key areas of uncertainty.

In relation to the DoFD data project, Posted on January 8, 2013 by co2land , Contaminated Land – Remediation challenges was written Presently for a majority of contaminates, there are no endorsed standards or guidelines within Australia that define, for each category of land use, safe levels of soil contamination. What we do have within the National Environment Protection Measures Act 1998 (NEPM Act) guidelines is an adopted remediation criteria recommending investigation levels. Our suggestion is this investigation criterion is far too conservative and not well adopted or able to properly adept to manage health and environmental risks. Also written was CO2Land org noted that the federal Department of Finance and Deregulation has a number of areas responsible or have responsibility pertinent to management of contaminated land and wonders if it might be data collection that is the greater weakness in terms of the abilities for adequate and timely responses. This new post suggests DoFD is now prepared to push the boundries into uncertainty for those areas not previously covered by the scope of the land policy functions. CO2Land org also notes the timeframes for the project indicates the willingness for the data to be available for the 2013/14 Strategic Review Program – we applaud you for that. Small steps by a leap forward in terms of past efforts.

Contaminated Land – Remediation challenges

Presently, for a majority of contaminates, there are no endorsed standards or guidelines within Australia that define, for each category of land use, safe levels of soil contamination. What we do have within the National Environment Protection Measures Act 1998 (NEPM Act) guidelines is an adopted remediation criteria recommending investigation levels. Our suggestion is this investigation criterion is far too conservative and not well adopted or able to properly adept to manage health and environmental risks.

Posted on January 6, 2013 by co2land, Contaminated Land – Obligations to manage – was written to help the reader to understand that managing the environment means many things and it is not necessarily so that moral decisions will be made. From that story it follows that a natural discussion point is to now look at the remediation challenges, or if you prefer to call it – appropriate actions, and the point is made that to manage contamination the issues may involve: risk management activities, including actions to limit exposure to contaminates; remediation, such as physical containment, capture and on-site treatment, or removal/offsite for disposal; or whatever combination of above. In today’s political climate it is unlikely a government officer would go along with addressing the challenges unless due diligence investigations and factoring the results into a cost-benefit analysis was done ‘appropriately’. As a Carbon Manager, we might say extensive due diligence investigations and cost-benefit analysis has cost and time implications that science clearly indicates we do not have the luxury to indulge into – the earth as we know is dependent on our actions.

Notwithstanding the urgency matter, ‘real’ remediation challenges include managing the uncertainty associated with the costs of remediation, remember it was said investigative sampling could only provide an estimate of the actual problem (the nature, extent and concentrations of what is the contaminant(s)). Therefore any property management decision can attract significant cost risk when considering changes to land use. To recant the start of this discussion it was said recommendations are part of the NEPM Act and the conservative responses that will be elicited are not strong. It may be that the data available is part of the problem and that needs to be addressed in a more robust or targeted way.

CO2Land org noted that the federal Department of Finance and Deregulation has a number of areas responsible or have responsibility pertinent to management of contaminated land and wonders if it might be data collection that is the greater weakness in terms of the abilities for adequate and timely responses. Stronger more targeted data collection could be better used to quantify the risk and might lessen the likelihood of ‘excessive’ or redundant analysis on a project-by-project basis. The potential is to save money too!

We will expect we will increasingly see this approach being implemented and would applaud where issues such as uncertainty is reduced; improved decision making processes are covered off; and more efficient funding approval processes are followed. We believe additional benefits could accrue and if it is transparent shared lessons learnt and reports could give improvement in practice and the moral and the legal be much the same outcome.