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A Guide to Particulate Monitoring after Implementation of SPG8: Construction and Demolition Sites

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Environmental particulates and NO2 are becoming an area of increased interest due to their effect on the health of large swathes of the population. Particulate matter is composed of non-gaseous material of varied chemical composition, which is categorised by its diameter. It is produced by a vast number of sources but can include engine emissions, brake wear, fires and construction activities. Particle size is directly linked to their potential for causing health problems. Those of less than 10 micrometers in diameter are linked to significant health problems due to their ability to infiltrate deep into the lung, with the smallest particulates crossing into the bloodstream.

This can cause significant problems with both your lungs and heart, with many studies having linked particulate pollution exposure to a variety of problems, which include:

The control of dust and emissions during construction and demolition - Supplementary Planning Guidance Greater London Authority (2014)
  • premature death in people with heart or lung disease

  • non-fatal heart attacks

  • irregular heartbeat

  • aggravated asthma

  • decreased lung function

  • increased respiratory symptoms, such as irritation of the airways, coughing or difficulty breathing

In the UK the action to combat particulate pollution was initially instigated through the implementation of Part IV of the Environmental Protection Act 1995 and the Government’s UK Air Quality Strategy (1997). Guidance has also been published by the Environment Agency for local authorities, through Technical Guidance LAQM.TG(09) ‘Local Air Quality Management’.

Recently action on the control of particulates has been spearheaded by the Greater London Authority, culminating in

the publication of ‘The Control of Dust and Emissions during Construction and Demolition’ (July 2014) and the ‘London Local Air Quality Management (LLAQM), Policy Guidance 2016 (LLAQM.PG(16))

Authorities Focus on Construction and Demolition Activities

Construction and demolition activities can result in impacts on local air quality through:

  • Visible dust plumes;

  • Dust deposition;

  • Elevated PM10 and PM2.5 concentrations; and

  • Increased concentrations of nitrogen dioxide.

These pollutants can result from such on site activities as the breaking-up of materials, movement of soil, the exhaust of diesel powered machinery/vehicles and the movement of vehicles/people across site.

The increased focus on the control of particulate matter by local authorities has meant that construction and demolition activities have been identified as significant sources of particulate matter and subsequently targeted for emissions control. This has been implemented through the aforementioned, ‘The Control of Dust and Emissions during Construction and Demolition’.

Construction Dust

Categorisation of Dust Emission Risk from Sites

In order to achieve control of these emissions it is necessary to measure the concentrations that are being emitted from a construction site. These are prescribed under the planning conditions of a local authority, and within London is dependent on the categorisation of the site. This is normally undertaken by the developer through a Dust Risk Assessment (DRA) that is submitted to the local authority, taking into account each phase of the works (demolition, earthworks, construction, trackout), identifying risks and suitable mitigation measures.

Sites are generically categorised as:

Low risk sites

  • Development of up to 1,000 square metres of land and;

  • Development of one property and up to a maximum of ten and;

  • Potential for emissions and dust to have small impact on sensitive receptors

Medium risk sites

  • Development of between 1,000 and 15,000 square metres of land and;

  • Development of ten to 150 properties and;

  • Potential for emissions and dust to have medium impact on sensitive receptors

High risk sites

  • Development of over 15,000 square metres of land

  • Development of over 150 properties or;

  • Major Development referred to the Mayor and or the London Development Agency;

  • Major development defined by a London borough or;

  • Potential for emissions and dust to have significant impact on sensitive receptors

Construction / Demolition Dust London

Monitoring Requirements

Site monitoring protocols to be undertaken are dependent on the risk categorisation of the site, however:

‘all demolition and construction sites should be monitored for the generation of air pollution. It is essential to monitor for dust generation, including PM10. For smaller sites this can be simply visual monitoring. The need to monitor PM2.5 and NO2 will be determined on a case by case basis by the local planning authority. The need for monitoring will generally depend on existing air quality, air pollution risks from the development, the technical practicalities and financial implications of such monitoring.’

The Control of Dust and Emissions During Construction and Demolition: Supplementary Planning Guidance 2014 (SPG8)

Dependent on the risks posed, any one of three site categories can be determined; low, medium and high.

Low Risk

Low Risk Sites require the following activities to be undertaken:

  • Take into account the impact of air quality and dust on occupational exposure standards to minimise worker exposure and breaches of air quality objectives that may occur outside the site boundary, such as by visual assessment

  • Keep an accurate log of complaints from the public, and the measures taken to address any complaints, where they were required

It is notable that measurement of dust/particulate is not required, however subjective assessments are necessary.

Medium Risk

The requirement of Medium Risk Sites is slightly more involved with the local authority requiring the implementation of one or multiple monitoring regimes along the line of a site and/or at sensitive receptors. Assessments must be completed in the following manner:

  • All tasks required for low risk sites

  • Determine the prevailing wind direction across the site using long term weather data from a nearby weather station;

  • If a requirement is imposed for measuring air quality along a line of a site:

  • Set up a line across the site according to the direction of the prevailing wind

  • Operate a minimum of two automatic particulate monitors to measure PM10 levels at either end of the line - either inside or outside the site boundary. These instruments should provide data that can be downloaded in real-time by the local authority

The LPA may also require monitoring at sensitive receptors. If this is necessary then the following must be implemented:

  • Identify which location(s) need to be monitored and set up an automatic particulate monitor at each of these to measure representative PM10 levels. These instruments should provide data that can be downloaded in real-time by the local authority;

  • If applicable, supplement with automatic monitors or hand-held monitors, particularly focusing on any sensitive locations such as schools;

  • Carry out dust deposition and soiling rate assessments following recommended procedures