Integrated Assessment And Modelling Of Soil Contaminant Behaviour, Transport and Impact At Remediable Urban Sites

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This project is focusing on key urban sites which have been impacted by inorganic and organic contaminants to provide an integrated assessment (including linked chemical and physical modelling) of:

  • how indigenous physicochemical conditions at such sites, together with a perturbation in any particular characteristic, especially a change in pH, redox or influx of organic matter, influence contaminant behaviour
  • the implications of this for the selection of an appropriate remedial technique
  • how, in a post-remedial scenario, residual concentrations of the contaminant, or remediation ‘products’, and biological activity will also be influenced by physicochemical conditions and their perturbation.

To address these issues, two key groups of contaminated land in Central Scotland have been selected:

  • sites impacted by hexavalent chromium in south-east Glasgow (Rutherglen and Cambuslang)
  • sites impacted by polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the Glasgow/Motherwell conurbation.


"Greater" Glasgow


Heavy metal contaminated sites

A new modelling framework, developed by Dr Meeussen at Macaulay Land Use Research Institute, is being applied to the sites around Glasgow which have been heavily contaminated with chromium-containing wastes. This approach uses a new algorithm which simplifies the matrix algebra involved while the chemical reactions and physical processes responsible for the behaviour of the metal contaminants are ‘modelled’ in the form of equations which interact with the central core when required. Alongside this, conventional analytical techniques and methods of solid state characterisation are being used to provide inputs for the modelling.

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon contaminated sites

Soil samples from the fuel-oil (and past carbonisation-process) contaminated site near Motherwell are being subjected to a range of extraction procedures, including supercritical fluid extraction and accelerated solvent extraction. The subsequent use of GC-MS and GC-C-IRMS enables identification, quantification and source apportionment of PAHs to be achieved. In addition, the factors influencing the behaviour and degradation of PAHs in soils are being investigated.

Assessment of biological activity prior to and post-remediation

Microbiological activity is being investigated in soils at both types of contaminated site. For the
Cr-contaminated sites, single species microbial bioassays are being used to establish the toxicity of both Cr(III) and Cr(VI) such that they may be used to establish end points for remedial treatments.

Start date and duration

March 1998 January 2002

Lead Organisations

University of Edinburgh

Macaulay Land Use Research Institute

East of Scotland Water Authority

Scottish Universities Research and Reactor Centre

Dames and Moore


This project will aim to bring the following benefits to the user community:

  • an understanding of how particular soil conditions may determine (a) the likely durability of a particular remedial technique where there may be future changes in soil physicochemical properties, and (b) the effectiveness of particular remedial technologies in achieving specific remedial goals through their influence on contaminant behaviour - this knowledge will be transferred to the user community through the development of a specific computer-based model for the behaviour of Cr-contaminated sites
  • an understanding of the extent to which biological activity in remediated soil can be restored through a manipulation of physicochemical properties.

This information will facilitate decision makers in their selection of remedial technologies and provide an important tool for assessing the cost-effectiveness of technological inputs in the remedial scheme.


Glasgow City Council

Scottish Environment Protection Agency

South Lanarkshire Council

Further Details

Further information is available from the following contacts:

Lead Researcher: Dr J G Farmer

Tel: 0131 650 4757, Fax: 0131 650 4757, e-mail:

URGENT Programme Manager: Graham Leeks

Tel: 01491 692203, Fax: 01491 692313, e-mail: