Risk Assessment – How should I take climate change into account?

This is just one of the questioned answered in the Environment Agency’s document on the Guiding Principles on Land Contamination  “GPLC2 FAQs, technical information, detailed advice and references.  It is interesting to note, that whilst the date on this publication is 2010, there has been little evidence to suggest that even six year later, with the phenomena of climate change being now widely accepted, our industry routinely considers the impact of climate change when undertaking contaminted land risk assessments. Discussions with attendees at CIRIA’s “Brownfield management -what’s new?” event last week similarly concurred. Furthermore none of the Regulators present indicated that they had or were receiving reports which included risk assessments addressing climate change.

Yet GPLC2 highlighted the following in response to the question ” how should I take climate change into account?”

Risks from contamination that are acceptable now might not be in the future – you need to factor climate change into your risk assessments.

The response also gave as an example that risk assessments may need to consider the likely impacts of changing temperature and water balance on the sources, pathways and receptors identified in the conceptual model: A key factor when looking at protecting built development from ground gas, as pointed out in section 4, of the recently updated “British Standard BS8584:2015 Code of Practice for the design of protective measures for methane and carbon dioxide ground gas for new buildings” which made the following recommendation.

“Extreme events (eg exceptional changes in atmospheric pressure, rapid groundwater rise and flooding) should be taken into account when defining the CS (Gas Characterisation Situation) and when selecting protective measures”

With the industry lagging behind, limited guidance on the topic of contaminated land risk assessment in a changing climate and the government only publishing essential guidance CIRIA is looking to work with the Industry to produce some new guidance. If you are interested in being part of this initiative then please get in contact with Joanne Kwan at CIRIA.