New contaminated land test could aid construction industry

09 June 2011

Researchers at the University of Reading have developed a new method of testing soil pollution which may mean that more brownfield sites are available for housing developments.

The test more accurately replicates the body’s processes when it ingests polluted soil than current tests.

Current methods for assessing the risk posed by contaminated land to human health may overestimate the amount of pollutant which can be absorbed by the gut safely.

This is because they use the total soil concentration rather than the amount of chemical that is released during digestion.

These inaccurate results can mean significant additional clean-up costs for companies; it is estimated that the unnecessary removal of pollutants from contaminated land is costing the construction industry an extra £140m ] £210m per annum.

It is expected that the new test will help to determine that more brownfield sites are fit for redevelopment, allowing for more houses to be built in areas less damaging to the environment.

University of Reading’s Department of Geography and Environmental Science say that their model will provide better data for companies and allow them to make more informed decisions on remediation.

The Department’s Dr Chris Collins said: “The test will also help local government determine if there is genuine risk from sites which may have low levels of residual pollution, such as allotments.

“Currently the new test is being used by three industrial customers and a local council.”

The research was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council and is published on the Environmental Science and Technology Journal’s website.