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Incorporating conceptual site models into national-scale environmental risk assessments for legacy waste in the coastal zone

Riley, Alex L.; Amezaga, Jaime; Burke, Ian T.; Burke, Ian; Byrne, Patrick; Cooper, Nick; Crane, Richard; Crane, Richard A.; Comber, Sean; Comber, Sean D.W.; Gandy, Catherine; Gandy, Catherine J.; Hudson-Edwards, Karen; Hudson-Edwards, Karen A.; Jennings, Elin; Lewis, Elizabeth; Lofts, Stephen; MacDonald, John; MacDonald, John M.; Malcolm, Heath; Mayes, William M.; Onnis, Patrizia; Olszewska, Justyna; Spears, Bryan; Jarvis, Adam


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Dr Alex Riley
Lecturer in Environmental Science & PDRA

Jaime Amezaga

Ian T. Burke

Ian Burke

Patrick Byrne

Nick Cooper

Richard Crane

Richard A. Crane

Sean Comber

Sean D.W. Comber

Catherine Gandy

Catherine J. Gandy

Karen Hudson-Edwards

Karen A. Hudson-Edwards

Elin Jennings

Elizabeth Lewis

Stephen Lofts

John MacDonald

John M. MacDonald

Heath Malcolm

Patrizia Onnis

Justyna Olszewska

Bryan Spears

Adam Jarvis


Solid wastes deposited in the coastal zone that date from an era of lax environmental regulations continue to pose significant challenges for regulators and coastal managers worldwide. The increasing risk of contaminant release from these legacy disposal sites, due to a range of factors including rising sea levels, associated saline intrusion, and greater hydrological extremes, have been highlighted by many researchers. Given this widespread challenge, and the often-limited remedial funds available, there is a pressing need for the development of new advanced site prioritization protocols to limit potential pollution risks to sensitive ecological or human receptors. This paper presents a multi-criteria decision analysis that integrates the principles of Conceptual Site Models (Source-Pathway-Receptor) at a national scale in England and Wales to identify legacy waste sites where occurrence of pollutant linkages are most likely. A suite of spatial data has been integrated in order to score potential risks associated with waste type (Source), likelihood of pollutant release relating to current and future flood and erosion climate projections, alongside current management infrastructure (Pathway), and proximity to sensitive ecological features or proxies of human use in coastal areas (Receptors). Of the 30,281 legacy waste deposits identified in England and Wales, 3,219 were located within the coastal zone, with coastal areas containing a density of legacy wastes (by area) 10.5 times higher than inland areas. Of these, 669 were identified as priority sites in locations without existing coastal defences or flood management infrastructure, with 2550 sites identified in protected areas where contaminant transfer risks could still be apparent. The majority (63 %) of the priority sites have either undefined source terms, or are classified as mixed wastes. Mining and industrial wastes were also notable waste categories, and displayed strong regional distributions in the former mining areas of north-east and south-west of England, south Wales, and post-industrial estuaries. The large-scale screening process presented here could be used by environmental managers as a foundation to direct more high-resolution site assessment and remedial work at priority sites, and can be used as a tool by governments for directing funding to problematic sites.


Riley, A. L., Amezaga, J., Burke, I. T., Burke, I., Byrne, P., Cooper, N., …Jarvis, A. (2022). Incorporating conceptual site models into national-scale environmental risk assessments for legacy waste in the coastal zone. Frontiers in Environmental Science, 10, Article 1045482.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 13, 2022
Online Publication Date Oct 28, 2022
Publication Date Oct 28, 2022
Deposit Date Oct 13, 2022
Publicly Available Date Oct 28, 2022
Journal Frontiers in Environmental Science
Electronic ISSN 2296-665X
Publisher Frontiers Media
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 10
Article Number 1045482
Keywords Conceptual site model (CSM); Multicriteria decision analysis (MCDA); Risk assessment; Spatial analysis; Pollution; Legacy wastes; GIS - Geographic Information System
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Copyright Statement
Copyright © 2022 Riley, Amezaga, Burke, Byrne, Cooper, Crane, Comber, Gandy, Hudson-Edwards, Jennings, Lewis, Lofts, MacDonald, Malcolm, Mayes, Onnis, Olszewska, Spears and Jarvis. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

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