Methodology for the determination of normal background concentrations of contaminants in English soil

Ander, E. Louise; Johnson, Christopher C.; Cave, Mark R.; Palumbo-Roe, Barbara; Nathanail, C. Paul; Lark, R. Murray. 2013 Methodology for the determination of normal background concentrations of contaminants in English soil. Science of The Total Environment, 454-455. 604-618.

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The revised Environmental Protection Act Part 2A contaminated land Statutory Guidance (England and Wales) makes reference to ‘normal’ levels of contaminants in soil. The British Geological Survey has been commissioned by the United Kingdom Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to estimate contaminant levels in soil and to define what is meant by ‘normal’ for English soil. The Guidance states that ‘normal’ levels of contaminants are typical and widespread and arise from a combination of both natural and diffuse pollution contributions. Available systematically collected soil data sets for England are explored for inorganic contaminants (As, Cd, Cu, Hg, Ni and Pb) and benzo[a]pyrene (BaP). Spatial variability of contaminants is studied in the context of the underlying parent material, metalliferous mineralisation and associated mining activities, and the built (urban) environment, the latter being indicative of human activities such as industry and transportation. The most significant areas of elevated contaminant concentrations are identified as contaminant domains. Therefore, rather than estimating a single national contaminant range of concentrations, we assign an upper threshold value to contaminant domains. Our representation of this threshold is a Normal Background Concentration (NBC) defined as the upper 95% confidence limit of the 95th percentile for the soil results associated with a particular domain. Concentrations of a contaminant are considered to be typical and widespread for the identified contaminant domain up to (and including) the calculated NBC. A robust statistical methodology for determining NBCs is presented using inspection of data distribution plots and skewness testing, followed by an appropriate data transformation in order to reduce the effects of point source contamination.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 00489697
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: This paper is an Open Access article under a Creative Commons Attribution licence and is also available for free download from URL above
Date made live: 25 Apr 2013 10:54 +0 (UTC)

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