Historic landfill and protection of our coasts and rivers
06 June 2016
Prior to current waste management or pollution prevention legislation, such as the EU Groundwater Directive or EU landfill Directive, historic landfill sites located on the coast and alongside river estuaries were usually engineered without basal or side wall liners.
It is now accepted that rising sea levels, along with an increased frequency of coastal storm surges, will result in a higher risk of tidal flooding and the erosion of low-lying coastal defences meaning that these landfill sites are now at an increased risk of being breached.
Estimates suggest that there are at least 20,000 of these historic sites in England and Wales alone. However, this figure is likely to be on the low side due to the incomplete or non-existent records of waste that was deposited within them and the lack of a legal requirement for their management or monitoring.
Some locations along the United Kingdom’s coastline have coastal defences themselves constructed using solid waste.
Today, 25% of these sites are within the Environment Agency’s high flood risk areas and many of the sites in the coastal zone are in or near bathing water catchment areas or sites of special scientific interest.
These sites, which were developed before the mid-1990s, are now very vulnerable with the potential for diffuse pollution to be released to the environment. As waste material is released to the environment during landslips, tidal flooding and coastal erosion the pollution may have an impact on the local water quality, sediment quality and wildlife. Traditional coastal defences are struggling to cope meaning that emergency works are often required alongside advanced planning for infrastructure protection.
Regular cleaning up of visible material at the surface and constructing cut-off walls and coastal defences are ways to intercept the contamination, preventing it from reaching vulnerable receptors and providing a physical barrier between waste and the surrounding environment.
As a national remediation and infrastructure contractor VHE has developed the necessary skills for coastal and river flood protection through our experience in materials management and the installation and protection of new and existing infrastructure across the UK. For more information contact VHE on 01226 320150 or alternatively use our ‘website enquiry form’.