26 April, 2023 By Nia Kajastie
The Environment Agency has appointed engineering consultancy GHD to help with a risk screening project looking at “forever chemicals” in the UK landfill environment that could cause soil, groundwater, surface water and air contamination.
GHD will work with the Environment Agency on four lots as part of phase four of its PFAS risk screening project. The aim is to assess and characterise the risks of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are known as “forever chemicals”, persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and other hazardous substances in UK landfill emissions, as leachate and gases.
The risk screening project is meant to improve the overall understanding of the scale and extent of such substances from landfill emissions and their potential migration pathways and impact on the terrestrial, fresh, water and marine environments.
As result, it could then help inform the implementation of regulatory measures in cases where risks posed from these substances are deemed unacceptable.
GHD, together with its partner Enitial, will carry out monitoring at select landfills and wastewater treatment plants and test various media for the presence and magnitude of PFAS and POPs contaminants. It will then interpret the data for emissions characterisation and look at the effectiveness of leachate treatment plants and associated wastewater treatment works in contaminant removal.
GHD’s scope across the four lots comprises research and investigative work to evaluate the potential landfill sources that might be contributing to contamination. This information will be used by the Environment Agency to develop regulatory tools to ensure its guidance for environmental monitoring at landfill sites is fit for purpose.
The four lots specifically cover:
GHD said its proposed approach to data-led decision-making and accuracy, as well as previous UK and global experience in PFAS and POPs assessment, led to its successful bid for the project.
GHD environmental solutions business group leader Liz Young said: “As a country, the UK has only just begun to realise the potentially damaging effects of ‘forever chemicals’ on the wider environment and particularly the harm exposed to both current and future generations. At GHD, we recognise that this is an extremely important issue, and we are proud to be leading the charge in this field with the Environment Agency, Enitial and a number of laboratories and other consultancies.
“We have extensive experience working on assessing PFAS in Australia, where the impacts on communities and the environment are more widely understood, and we are committed to continuing our R&D efforts to help the UK better understand this group of emerging contaminants and how their environmental impact can be mitigated.”
The West Gate Tunnel in Victoria, Australia, is a well known example of a project that was delayed due to the discovery of PFAS contamination in soil.
Young added: “It is also our hope that the developments we are making will support the Environment Agency in its development of legislation and monitoring tools to manage existing or prevent further contamination.”
Read more about PFAS contamination and how it an be identified during site characterisation.
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