Urban Regeneration Of Coalfields: Generic Studies of Contaminated Land and Groundwater Issues Exemplified in Wolverhampton

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The impact of contaminated land on the urban environment is strongly controlled by the nature (speciation) of contaminants present and the potential of these to migrate to ground and surface water. This project is addressing the following interrelated themes centred around the Wolverhampton conurbation:

  • groundwater and contaminant transport modelling
  • speciation studies and speciation modelling
  • contaminant mobility studies.

These three tasks will lead to an improved generic basis for contaminated land risk assessment. The project benefits from current Environment Agency sampling activity and groundwater data, as well as the recently completed British Geological Survey ‘Wolgis’ hydrogeological and geological database.


West Midlands


Groundwater and contaminant transport modelling:

  • to define current water levels in the area and predict future rises dependent on a number of future development scenarios
  • to describe and predict the effect of rising water levels and land use changes on groundwater quality, particularly the consequences of saturating waste and contaminated land previously above the water table.

Speciation studies and speciation modelling:

  • to determine the concentration of Potentially Harmful Elements (PHEs) in the different size and mineralogical fractions of the contaminated solid material
  • to directly determine the aqueous phase chemical speciation of PHEs (redox states, inorganic/organic complexes) in leachates, extracts, porewaters and groundwaters derived from the solid material (in conjunction with the contaminant mobility studies)
  • to predict aqueous phase PHE speciation by geochemical modelling.

Contaminant mobility studies:

  • to establish the leaching behaviour of contaminated soils exposed to various groundwaters likely to be encountered in urban areas
  • to provide leached aqueous samples for specification studies, the results of which will help validate speciation modelling
  • to compare the total and species concentrations of PHEs, their relative mobilities and significance to overall site risk assessment
  • to assess several laboratory test methods for investigating leachability and to develop guidance on the interpretation of such tests in the context of speciation and on the use of speciation models.


Groundwater and contaminant transport modelling

In addition to a contaminant transport model for the Wolverhampton conurbation, which can be further developed as data becomes available or used to guide development, this activity will deliver:

  • maps illustrating the current and future groundwater configurations and surface water flows resulting from a range of possible future scenarios
  • maps showing areas where contaminants may be mobilised as a result of rising groundwater or change in land use
  • maps predicting future contaminant concentrations at sensitive points of water use.

Speciation studies and speciation modelling

This activity will deliver:

  • new datasets to compliment existing total element concentrations databases and give new insights into the occurrence, mobility, fate and transport of PHEs in the environment
  • new protocols for rapid screening of PHEs in contaminated soils and groundwaters
  • validation of speciation predictions
  • an improved groundwater flow and geochemical speciation model to support contaminated land risk assessment.

Contaminant mobility studies

Deliverables from this activity are:

  • source term leaching for a range of contaminated land types in terms of total PHE concentrations and species concentrations
  • guidance documentation on leaching test methods.

Start date/duration

January 1998 Four years

Lead Organisations

University of Sheffield

Macaulay Land Use Research Institute

British Geological Survey


Environment Agency

Sheffield City Council

Wolverhampton Metropolitan Borough Council

Glasgow City Council

Further Details

Further information is available from the following contacts:

Lead Researcher: Dr J C Cripps

Tel: 0114 22 23612, Fax: 0114 22 23650, e-mail: j.c.cripps@sheffield.ac.uk

URGENT Programme Manager: Graham Leeks

Tel: 01491 692203, Fax: 01491 692313, e-mail: gjll@ceh.ac.uk