What we do Permits, pollution & regulation

Permits, pollution and regulation

Julia Reynolds has previously worked as the Contaminated Land Officer and Part 2A lead at Leeds City Council, Northallerton Council and Doncaster Council where she identified, investigated and remediated high risk contaminated land sites, assessed risks on historic gassing landfills and provided technical support on complex development sites.

Find out more about Julia’s experience or get in touch to discuss your site’s requirements –  call Julia on 01937 545330.

Environmental permits and baseline assessments

Complying with your environmental permit can be a daunting task.  For example, following the new obligations relating to baseline assessments, soil and groundwater monitoring plans.

Lithos can support your business in fulfilling soil and water monitoring requirements, helping you to decide:  what and where to sample; how to interpret the data; and presenting this in a format that supports your environmental permit.

We have extensive experience developing site-specific baseline assessments for a range of industry sectors.  We work closely with our laboratories ensuring site-specific soil & groundwater analytical suites are developed to target each site’s relevant hazardous substance(s).  Lithos ensures the approach and monitoring locations compliment the activities on site, and monitoring wells are designed to last the life time of your permit.

If you have a baseline and monitoring plan in place, but simply need support working with your Regulatory Authority, be that the Environment Agency or Local Authority, we can help here too.

You can find some case studies on our website:

  • Landowner liabilities from leasehold
  • Print works
  • Wall paper manufacturer
  • Timber treatment

In accordance with the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED), which has been incorporated into the UK Environmental Permitting Regulations (EPR), all A1 & A2 installations are required to determine soil and groundwater conditions beneath their site.  A1 permits are typically regulated by the Environment Agency, A2 installations were formerly regulated by your Local Authority under a Part B authorisation.

Ideally, ground conditions are determined immediately prior to construction of the facility and commencement of site operations, hence the term baseline assessment.  However, for existing facilities, baseline can be considered to be ground conditions at the date of issue of a permit.

A baseline assessment initially considers the findings of desk-based research (including review of historical plans, geological maps and environmental data), followed by a site visit to conduct an environmental audit (essentially a review of your facilities – site operations, raw materials used & how/where these are stored etc).  We need to identify the key chemicals (potentially hazardous to the local environment) that have been used on site, both prior to and following issue of the Permit, this allows relevant hazardous substances to be identified.  These should be relevant to the permit, but not historic activities.

This work allows us to formulate what we call a Conceptual Site Model (CSM), which is then used to design the subsequent intrusive ground investigation, with recovery of soil and groundwater samples for laboratory analysis.  Soil samples are recovered from machine excavated trial pits or boreholes.  Groundwater samples are recovered from monitoring wells (essentially plastic pipes) installed within boreholes.  We ensure boreholes are installed in the right place, first time and to a high standard, for continued reliance throughout the operational phase of the permit.

Once baseline conditions have been established, further groundwater samples are recovered from the monitoring wells every 5 years.  Further soil sampling is required every 10 years.  This periodic monitoring is required as a permit condition and the information is used when the permit is surrendered to ensure the land is returned to the same state as it was before the permit was issued.

However, in some circumstances, the CSM will allow us to conclude that a less intensive intrusive investigation is required, or occasionally, not necessary at all.  For example, where the site is underlain by a significant thickness of clay and therefore groundwater is absent.

In addition to being a requirement of the permit, a baseline assessment also helps both landowners and the permit holder (if land is leasehold) as/when a facility closes or relocates.  The operator/leaseholder is responsible for demonstrating that their occupation of the site has not caused contamination of the underlying soils/groundwater.  If contamination has been caused, the leaseholder will need to commission the necessary “clean-up” works (remediation) to return ground to baseline conditions.

The leaseholder would submit a copy of the baseline assessment and any subsequent reports associated with periodic monitoring to the landowner (and the Local Authority) to demonstrate that their occupation has not caused contamination.  The landowner could use these reports to provide a baseline for subsequent tenants.

Whilst the baseline assessment only considers those key chemicals used on site since issue of the permit, the landowner will be liable (under Part IIA of the Environment Act) for any pollution caused by any other chemicals formerly used on site.  Landowners should be aware that they are also liable for “clean-up” of any significant contamination if the leaseholder becomes insolvent.

All permit submissions made since 2013 have had to supply a baseline assessment with the permit application.  The holders of older permits must provide a baseline assessment when the permit is updated, often this corresponds with the issue of the industry specific Best Available Techniques (BAT) reference documents (BREFs).

Following issue of the BREF, a facility usually has up to 4 years to comply with the BREF and permits are varied accordingly.  If companies do not already have a baseline assessment report, the Environment Agency’s Local Authority Unit has stated that one must be included when the permit is updated.

The baseline assessment has two main aims:

  • To assess the degree of contamination in the soil and groundwater before the permit was issued.  This is considered the baseline state and represents the condition the site must be returned to when the permit is surrendered.
  • Identification of relevant hazardous substances, chemicals that have potential hazardous properties and that are used in the Permitted Activity.  These should be site-specific, not generic.

No, Lithos will work with you to ensure the design of any ground investigation work compliments your ongoing site activities.  Ground investigations should not impact on site infrastructure, paying particular attention to secondary and tertiary containment, such as impermeable hardstanding, bunds, kerbs or high-risk areas such as bulk chemical storage.  Lithos will ensure exploratory techniques adopted reflect each site setting, rather than one approach fits all.

A baseline assessment is a term used under the Industrial Emissions Directive; a site condition report is required for all facilities regulated under the Environmental Permitting Regulations.  This could include activities not included under the IED.  However, these reports are similar.

A baseline assessment is designed to establish ground conditions at the start of the activity / issue of the permit.  This is supported by periodic monitoring.   A site condition report provides a summary of ground conditions at specific points in time, site condition reports are updated periodically either following sampling or review of site operations.

Both the baseline assessment report, with periodic monitoring and site condition reports are designed to consider the condition of the soil and groundwater during the life of the permitted activity and can be used to support final surrender.

IED considers Installations within the following sectors, within each sector there are chemical thresholds to decide if the operation is sufficient size to class as an Installation.

  • Energy industries, such as power-generation by combusion, and coke ovens
  • The production and processing of both ferrous and non-ferrous metals
  • Cement, minerals and lime industries
  • Chemicals industry
  • Waste management, including incineration
  • Timber treatment, paper and pulp
  • Intensive and industrial scale food production and processing
  • The surface treatment of substances

Managing pollution and incidents

Spillages of fuels, oils, chemicals and silt can be a serious issue which requires appropriate investigation, risk assessment and remediation.  Fast action after a spillage can often avoid wider pollution and prevent expensive fines, prosecution and reputational damage.

It is important that developers (and their sub-contractors), industry and private land owners are aware that accidental release of contamination is an offence under the Environmental Permitting Regulations.  Pollution incidents are rarely intentional releases.

Lithos’ Environmental team offer bespoke toolbox talks on the risks associated with the environmental setting of your site and activities, ensuring everyone is aware of the implications of a pollution incident and understand action that needs to be taken in the event of a spillage.  We also undertake environmental audits, identifying any potential near misses or areas which would benefit from improved management.

If you have had, or suspect, a pollution incident, Lithos can support with investigation, risk assessment and remediation design.  We will also support with regulatory liaison.

Environmental regulation compliance

Julia Reynolds heads up Lithos’ work on environmental compliance.  As a former regulator Julia has both have considerable knowledge of a wide range of environmental legislation.  She understands the implications of the changing and emerging legislation (on industry, landowners and developers), the increasing requirements to meet environmental standards, and often the increasing financial commitments.

Julia uses her regulatory backgrounds to support clients across sectors, providing pragmatic, accurate and workable solutions.