Reflections from Ecoforum by Richard Campbell

25 August 2022


Richard chairing on Next generation site investigations

I thought I would share some learnings from the Australasian Land & Groundwater Association’s Ecoforum in Newcastle, which I was lucky enough to attend earlier this month. For those of you who may not know, the ALGA’s mission is to promote the protection, restoration and management of land and groundwater for the benefit of human health and the broader environment across Australasia. Ecoforum is about opening our minds to new ways of doing things and learning about what others are doing in the contaminated land sector. This was an excellent conference, well organised and attended.

My reflections and learnings:

  • PFAS poses challenges – The contaminated land industry is working very hard at all things PFAS (per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances). The Defence – CSIRO collaborative research program, in particular, highlighted some challenges with restricting the movement of PFAS, particularly as it seems to have the capability to leach through concrete surfaces!
  • Emerging contaminants looms large – The spectre of emerging contaminants looms over us all. I was struck by how the devils of the past, such as heavy metals, are moving aside for another tsunami of man-made pollutants that seem to be all-pervasive. A particularly interesting topic presented by Arcadis looked at the environmental impacts of pharmaceutical ingredients in the environment and wastewater. Some of these compounds are endocrine disrupters. Another topic looked at micro-plastics and how this is emerging as a critical risk area. So, no end of work in sight for the industry.
  • Innovation is alive and well – The session on next generation site investigations was fascinating. GHD presented on using geophysical tools mounted on autonomous drones to detect unexploded ordinance, and Senversa spoke on lead speciation. What was interesting about this topic was how the weathering of contaminants, such as lead, can change their chemical form making them more harmful to living organisms and therefore changing their risk. This has implications for their clean up criteria.

It was great to see some old faces and to meet some rising young stars of the industry.