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Green Building Bible, Fourth Edition
Green Building Bible, fourth edition (both books)
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    Site clearance has started on my new build project and my contractor advised that no one would take away the soil we need to have removed without it being tested.

    The test results came back yesterday and they are showing led levels across the site of between 340 mg/kg to 520 mg/kg. There is also a localised spot where an old garage used to be that is higher.

    I'm struggling to find any information online which states what is a safe level vs. what needs to be remediated. I've found a few links which suggests these are failry typical levels for London gardens, but I was hoping to find an 'authorative' source like Environment Agency guidance.

    The soil testing company are advising it all needs to be removed to a depth of 60cm and replaced with inert soil. I don't know if this is required or they are being overly cautious.

    Has anyone experienced anything similar? Could you point me in the direction of what are deememd safe background levels of lead in soils?

    • CommentAuthorJamster
    • CommentTimeOct 30th 2014
    Hi Richard - the levels you've identified are certainly typical of urban soils. I'm guessing that this is in the London area? If so, they're typical, if on the low side if anything!

    What planning conditions, if any, do you have in relation to soil testing? If you have no conditions relating to testing / local authority approval, I would be reluctant to go ahead with any works that were not specified by them. If you've a hot-spot around a garage, I would think it appropriate to remove some topsoil in that area but not 600mm across the whole site.

    The whole soil contamination / risk assessment in the UK is a bit of a mess at the moment - I would try and steer clear of any detailed risk assessments if you could possibly do so. You may find that the levels are at or around the guideline levels for development on sites, but you would never get a local authority enforcing retrospective cleanup for human health at those levels. All you are likely to end up doing is burning money to pay for someone to rubber stamp the site for you.

    This is partially my day-job BTW so I've a bit of an insight into what is going on here.
    • CommentAuthorCWatters
    • CommentTimeOct 30th 2014
    I had a hard tome googling for guidance but found...


    "the safe level for lead in allotments of 450mg/kg"


    "In 2002 Defra and the Environment Agency (2002b) published soil guidelines (SGVs) for lead of:
    • 450 mg.kg-1 for residential with/without plant uptake"
    • 750 mg.kg-1 for commercial/industrial

    These SGVs were derived using empirical relationships between environmental lead exposure and blood lead concentrations for children and adults, respectively and these values therefore take some account of the bioavailability of lead in soil. However, these SGVs were withdrawn in 2008 and are no longer recommended for
    use in the risk assessment of contaminated land."
    Thanks for all the info and links.

    Yes my project is in London.
    • CommentAuthorTriassic
    • CommentTimeOct 30th 2014
    If you are in London you need to consider the background concentrations, this map may help you
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