An Environmental Assessment Has Many Stages
An area of land which is the intended site for a new building may have been contaminated at some time in the past, so much so that it poses a threat to the health and safety of future occupants of the site. Environmental contamination could have occurred in a variety of ways, both unintentionally and possibly deliberately, which means that a thorough environmental assessment should take place before building work commences. By completing the assessment before construction or demolition work begins, remedial action can be taken without the requirement to knock down or dismantle any existing building work which has already been started (it is much easier to take action on contaminated ground before there is a big structure built on top of it!).
Conducting an environmental assessment is not as simple as having a quick look around the area and sticking a few probes in the ground to take some measurements though. It will begin with looking at the documents which detail the previous uses of the site and the activities of the previous occupants, as this will give a fairly accurate idea as to the potential contaminants which may be present in the ground on the site, and as such can be thoroughly and completely tested for, measured and assessed to determine if there is any potential hazard to health.
After reading about previous uses from the documents, preliminary site investigations can begin where samples may be taken and sent away for analysis. Investigators must also keep in mind that documentary records may not be 100% accurate and complete, and that there may be additional hazards present which were not apparent from studying documents alone. A full investigation will then ensue and result in conclusions as to what work if any needs to be undertaken in order to make the site safe for future occupation.
The serious potential risks to the health, safety and welfare of those who would occupy the site after construction make comprehensive environmental assessments essential for preventing harm coming to these people. Whilst many sites are likely to be free of any environmental contaminants which could harm human health, some will have the potential to cause serious illness or even death in extreme cases, particularly if children will be the main occupants of the new building (e.g. a school or nursery is to be built).
Only those who have received suitable and proper training in how to carry out environmental assessments should do so. Without sufficient knowledge, crucial items and issues may be missed which could result in harm coming to others.