Managing contaminated land on eroding coastlines

10th April 2013

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  • Construction ,
  • Waste ,
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  • Stewardship



CIRIA and Royal HaskoningDHV introduce their new guidance on the management of landfill sites and land contamination on eroding or low-lying coastlines

There are hundreds of sites around the UK’s coasts and estuaries that have been used for landfill and other industrial practices. Many sites are now disused, often re-landscaped and openly accessible to the public.

The effects of coastal erosion, landslips and sea flooding can release material from some of these sites. These materials can then be deposited on the foreshore or seep into the marine environment. This release of landfill waste, and other industrial contaminants, can impact on public health and cause physical, chemical and biological impacts on the natural environment.

Royal HaskoningDHV has recently produced a key piece of guidance with CIRIA (the construction industry research and information association) on the management of landfill sites and land contamination on eroding coastlines.

The guidance is aimed at local authorities, coastal managers, landfill operators and waste regulators, and deals with the emerging issue of managing historic or operational landfill sites and other areas of land contamination in locations affected by marine or terrestrial flooding and/or coastal or fluvial erosion.

The guidance provides a step–by-step approach to identifying a problem; characterising a site; assessing the risks; appraising and selecting appropriate management options; delivering solutions; and monitoring performance.

It draws on case studies from around the UK, including Trow Quarry in Tyne and Wear and Spittles Lane in West Dorset.

In addition to the operational issues presented by ongoing or imminent coastal erosion or sea flooding, the guidance also considers longer-term strategic issues.

In some cases, the presence of landfills or legacy industrial sites may affect, or be affected by, strategic coastal management policies set for the future. For example, it may be necessary to continue to provide coastal defences along a particular frontage because an historic landfill is present.

Alternatively, management policy made elsewhere along adjacent frontages may have a knock-on effect on frontages containing landfill or historic legacy sites. These issues need to be addressed through the early and active involvement of those responsibile for managing such sites in strategic coastal management planning. This will ensure that the risks posed by such sites are fully understood, that appropriate actions are taken and that coastal management decision-making is influenced in a proactive manner.

As with many construction industry projects, identifying and engaging key stakeholders, such as site owners, developers, regulatory bodies, statutory consultees, technical and legal advisors, communities and interest groups, is an essential part of progressing a solution to any risk.

Consideration of how and when to engage these stakeholders is important at the outset of any project.

CIRIA C718: Guidance on the management of landfill sites and land contamination on eroding or low-lying coastlines is available from

Contact: Ruth Tyson, senior environmental consultant at Royal HaskoningDHV, for more details ( or

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