FOR CONTAMINATED SITES
SEPTEMBER 25, 2019 | WARSAW
Better land, better water
Soil, groundwater quality, and remedial issues are not focused upon in Poland. While waste disposal and air pollution have been in the forefront, soil and groundwater contamination concern remain overlooked. There is a strong need to education and build public awareness in these crucial areas. The annual REMEDy for contaminated sites conference is an effort in this direction.
The REMEDy conference was first organized in 2018 at the initiative of Lion Environmental, an engineering consultancy company. The goal of the conference was to establish a platform where representatives of governmental organizations, consultants, lawyers, as well as owners or potential buyers of contaminated property could exchange their experiences and discuss technical aspects and challenges when remediating sites in Poland. The merit of the conference, and its ability to reach all sectors of the business, meant that the second edition of REMEDy, organized by Lion Environmental in 2019, gained even more supported by companies, such as the event’s general partner ERM Poland, along with laboratories working in Poland, remedial solution providers, and other companies from the industry.
While the audience for the REMEDy conference has increased from last year, its formula of bringing together different aspects of the environmental remedial industry has not changed. This is proof that such dialogues and thirst for information is not only desired, but also needed.
Remedial procedures in the world
During international panel, over 100 participants, mostly from governmental authorities, listened to presentations that discussed soil and groundwater regulations in Sweden, Germany and Great Britain. The attendees got the chance to compare Polish regulations to their counterparts in other EU nations.
Klaus Schnell, PhD, head of the contaminated site management team of Central Europe for ERM GmbH, presented the regulatory framework for contaminated sites in Germany. For about 20 years, soil and groundwater protection in Germany has been governed by the Federal Soil Protection Act (BBodSchG) and its subordinated ordinance (BBodSchV). Although there is no legal obligation, it is advised to identify liabilities related to potential soil and groundwater contamination in connection with a property transfer. In Germany, the “polluter pays” principle applies, but other parties may be held liable, i. e. the legal successors of the polluter or current occupants of a property. Upon the discovery of contamination, authorities must be notified. The requirement for remediation is evaluated on a case-by-case basis, depending upon the results of a detailed soil and groundwater investigation. Such an evaluation may include a risk assessment to determine the need or extent of the remedial effort. "What is important to us is that groundwater is a sensitive receptor. So sometimes you have to do remediation, even if theoretically there is no danger to people "- explained the speaker. It is worth emphasizing that at every stage of a discovered environmental release, contaminate identification, site assessment, and remediation, the stakeholders (consultants, property owners, and authorities) cooperate closely to achieve a common goal.
Per Johansson, Environmental Consultant at WSP AB, explained what the Swedish approach to soil and groundwater regulations are for remediation. The clean-up of contaminated land has been an important topic in Sweden since the early 1990s. Environmental site clean-ups became an issue in Sweden later than in other western European countries. The regulation regarding contaminated land is characterized using a conservative approach. Exemptions, from the generic guideline values, are rare and remediation typically only requires excavation and transport to a landfill. Now there is an evolution in thinking where acceptance of in-situ remediation has become more acceptable by both authorities and site owners. The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency is now actively working to increase the use of methods other than excavation. The recognition that transporting waste over the road contributes to global climate change has further motivate the drive to find alternative solutions to dig and go. Per Johansson detailed several examples of remedial projects that have been conducted in Sweden.
Sophie Penny, Principal Environmental Consultant from RSK UK, presented and engaging review of the importance of risk assessment when developing brownfield sites in the United Kingdom. Over the years the UK has developed a transparent policy when resolving soil and groundwater contamination issues. Sophie pointed out that the British use a risk assessment tool (e.g. the CLR11 process) to develop a conceptual model for specific contaminated sites and to select a specific remediation methodology for each given case.
International experience has proven that a key element required to properly assess risk from soil contamination is the usage designation of the site. "In the UK, we are also conducting a land assessment process at the planned investment location stage," said Sophie.
What does the Polish regulatory framework for soil and groundwater contamination look like against international requirements?
First Ordinance on soil quality standards was issued by the Minister of Environment on 9 September 2002, it has been enforced for more than 17 years and was amended with a new ordinance from the Minister of Environment addressing contaminated land assessments on 1 September 2016 (Journal of Laws pos. 1395, dated 5 September 2016).
Karolina Motyka, Chief Specialist in Environmental Damage, RDOŚ Wrocław (the regulatory body), discussed how the functioning of the “new” Ordinance for environmental protection sector is applied. Her presentation also discussed the advantages and disadvantages of the regulations and what are the most common mistakes being made in the remediation documents being submitted to authorities.
Although the “new” Ordinance organized and structured the process of assessments of contaminated lands, there are some issues that remediation companies face that have not been resolved. "Polish regulations are not effective. For example, (the) maximum fine for not reporting about identified soil contamination is 5,000 PLN (approx. 1200 Euro). Is this any punishment for a developer who will build a housing estate in a contaminated area? "- wondered Sebastian Stachowski, managing director of Lion Environmental. He added further, "Poland has been part of the industrialized world for 200 years. Nowadays we have brownfields and post-mining areas, as well as (the) remains of infrastructure from the oil & gas industry. So, we also have problems associated (with) this. The sooner we can handle it, the better for us. We cannot underestimate such matters because the poor quality of the soil and water where we live, work or spend leisure time has an impact on our health”.
Sebastian Stachowski pointed out that Poland, as well as other members of the EU, are obliged to implement the EU Water Directive within their regulatory framework. In practice however, these legal acts have no impact on remediation, as long as soil standards are not exceeded. As Klaus Schnell stated, groundwater is (a) sensitive carrier of contaminants. "Although there has been a big change since 2016, there are still no binding standards for groundwater. It is worrying that the authorities do not react to this. Another disturbing issue is the fact that people extracting groundwater from their own intakes do not order laboratory analyses of these waters. This is shocking for me” - said Magda Pavlak-Chiaradia, Partner and Managing Director, ERM Poland.
Can this be changed? The REMEDy conference is a part of a solution to this discrepancy. "Here, for the first time, we can see regulatory body representatives talking with the private sector. In the US, it's ordinary that problems are resolved in this way with dialog and an atmosphere of common understanding between business and authorities. Based on my experience (in the) US, where I come from, amendments to legislation are implemented with full cooperation between private and public sectors based on their experience and particular cases to address specific problems" explained Magda Pavlak-Chiaradia. According to her, Poland still suffers due to a lack of education, awareness and trust between the public and private sectors. However, positive change of private and public sector attitudes towards each other can be seen." Such an event as the REMEDy conference must work on a large scale, this is the right way to create a space for discussion, building trust between stakeholders. We're in the same industry, why can't we solve these problems together? "- she added. "We just want better tools to sort out problems that are relevant to both sides” – she added.
Do not reinvent the wheel
Advanced remediation tools are already available and are in worldwide use. George (Bud) Ivey, President and Senior Remediation Specialist, Ivey International Inc. (Canada) and Gareth Leonard, Managing Director of Regenesis Europe (UK), presented about complimentary technologies. The most up to date remedial methods are in-situ technologies based on surfactants, active carbon, and powerful oxidizers.
“There is no need to be afraid of new technologies successfully applied in other countries. Experiences collected during remediation conducted in Italy or Germany could be beneficial to Poland.” In case of “ecological bombs”- land that is extremely difficult to remediate, Polish regulators take the position that remedial methods should be invented and approved in academic circles first. Implementation of unproved solutions consumes time and money in Poland. The approval process requires long-term monitoring and detailed analyses to confirm that remediated soil meets environmental goals. Implementation of proven techniques, tested in other countries, needs to be easier and faster. For this to happen, it is necessary to present such technologies and their effectiveness to regulators. Regulators are often sceptical of new solutions because of actual or perceived weaknesses. This fear can be overcome by implementing multiple remedial methods simultaneously or by exploring new techniques that have enhanced post remedial monitoring. This approach can ensure that the method selected is comprehensive and leaves no untreated areas.
Prior to the implementation of a specific remedial method at a site, the methodology can be tested via a pilot study on test-site. After testing such methods, or combination of methods, one can be chosen and implemented on a large scale. “It happens in Poland, but its still to sporadic,” pointed out Sebastian Stachowski.
Currently, Poland’s most commonly used remedial procedure is removal of contaminated soil and trucking it off-site to landfills. Ultimately, this does not bring savings, but in the long term only transfers the environmental issue to a new location. "I hope that more and more new technologies will be implemented at contaminated sites in Poland. Such (technologies) as soil washing or ISCO (In-Situ Chemical Oxidation) have a place here in Poland.” - said the managing director of Lion Environmental.
New opportunities to implement remedial knowhow in the Polish remedial market will certainly come. The question to regulators will be how to approve implementation and enforcement of regulatory requirements for use of such techniques. A conference as REMEDy helps add awareness among decision-makers, industry and consultants in Poland. The openness to cooperation within the industry will help in the development of best practice and procedures to meet the legal requirements and to offer viable solutions for contaminated properties.
Oceanographer, Lion Environmental
George (Bud) Ivey
President and senior remediation specialist, Ivey International Inc.
Environmental consultant, WSP Sweden
Environmental director Europe, Panattoni Europe
Principal consultant, ERM Poland
Managing director, Regenesis in Europe
Business development manager, WESSLING Polska sp. z o.o.
The main specialist in damage in the environment, RDOŚ Wrocław
Partner and managing director, ERM Poland
Head of the environmental damage and nature conservation unit, GDOŚ
PhD Klaus Schnell
Partner, Head of contaminated site management team of Central Europe, ERM GmbH
Advocate, Counsel and Head of Environmental Law Practice, CEE and Poland, CMS
Agnieszka Skorupińska specialises in Polish and EU environmental protection and natural resources law. For over 11 years she has advised companies on regulatory issues, investment projects, environmental aspects of real property transactions, mergers and acquisitions, as well as funding processes. For many years she has also successfully represented clients in administrative and court proceedings concerning environmental protection law. She has led projects concerning historical soil surface contamination, environmental damage, baseline report, environmental permits, protection of air quality (including EU ETS), waste and water management, noise management and REACH. She has worked for companies from the energy, chemical, metallurgic, cement, construction, waste, FMCG, water and sewage, renewable energy, and other sectors. Agnieszka Skorupińska is a recommended lawyer with respect to environmental law (Band 3) according to the most prestigious legal ranking publication Chambers & Partners. She is also a “Next generation lawyer” in the energy and natural resources category according to Legal 500. This nomination singles her out as a leader on energy-related environmental protection matters. In 2014, Agnieszka Skorupińska was recognised in the “Rising Stars Lawyers – leaders of tomorrow” Ranking of Dziennik Gazeta Prawna, a leading Polish daily newspaper.
In 2019 the Chambers & Partners ranked the practice managed by Agnieszka Skorupińska in Band 2, whereas in 2018 it was recommended by the Rzeczpospolita law firm ranking in the “environmental protection law” category.
Managing director of Lion Environmental
Principal Environmental Consultant, RSK UK
Sophie has overseen projects for construction/redevelopment works at petrol station forecourts, former terminals, Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) projects and housing developments. She troubleshoots for sites regarding planning applications and liaises with local authorities and the Environment Agency.