The Environment Agency

Jon Harvey

The Organisation

The Environment Agency (EA), with area offices based in Preston and Penrith, is an Executive Non-departmental Public Body responsible to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The EA’s principal aims are to protect and improve the environment, and create better places for people and wildlife. The EA plays a central role in delivering the environmental priorities of central government through its functions and roles. They have a collaborative relationship with the university, and have a hot desk in the Lancaster Environment Centre.

www.gov.uk/government/organisations/environment-agency

The Challenge

A landfill site in Lancashire was classified as contaminated land under Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 on the basis of pollution of controlled waters by ammoniacal leachate. Leachate had been observed to be overtopping the bund walls into an adjacent brook and also appeared to be discharging via drains. An investigation was performed to establish the severity of the leachate reaching the watercourse. To identify locations with high leachate output, sondes were deployed along the brook to measure water quality including temperature, conductivity, dissolved oxygen (percentage and mg/l), pH, ammonium, ammonia, and turbidity.

Expertise Sought

  • Knowledge of interpreting and reporting on environmental data
  • Understanding of environmental monitoring techniques in the aquatic environment
  • Experience with Word and Excel
  • Experience using statistical programmes such as Minitab/SPSS

The Solution

Jonathan Harvey, MSc International Innovation, was recruited through the Science and Technology Internship Programme for a six week internship with the Environment Agency. Jonathan’s main task was to analyse the sonde data collected and report the findings. The project also aimed to update the Remedial Options Appraisal for the landfill leachate entering the brook to provide an indicative design and costing. This was done using surface water quality monitoring data to assess the impacts of leachate outbreak from the landfill on the brook and the effect on Water Framework Directive compliance of the overall waterbody.

Cost

The internship was part-financed by the EA at £550+ VAT, and part-financed by Lancaster University’s Environment Centre at £1,042, with a total value of £1,702.

Impact

The report is to be used as an evidence base to bid for funds for remedial options, and the report will be shared with remediation consultants so that they can clearly understand what the water quality issues are and where to focus remedial efforts.

Benefits:

  • A high quality statistical report outlining the findings of the data analysis was produced. The report analysed and presented the data so that it could be used to show where the worst pollution of controlled waters was occurring in the watercourses around the landfill and what the significance of this pollution is with respect to Water Framework Directive goals for this waterbody
  • The project provided great work experience for the student and allowed the development of management experience by the supervising member of Environment Agency staff
  • Successful implementation of a student on work placement within Cumbria and Lancashire for a short period of time, including arranging access to the IT and HR systems

Organisation Feedback

“The project enabled us to analyse and review a set of data much sooner than we would have been able to do otherwise, giving us a detailed view of the current situation within the brook with regards to water quality as a result of the adjacent landfill site. The project provided sound evidence to shape a suggested remediation strategy and will hopefully influence the future quality of the waterbody.  Jonathan was very diligent, professional and eager to learn during his time with us. He brought a range of skills with him enabling him to tackle the project from a different angle. He was determined to provide a useful piece of work that could influence future environmental outcomes.” Ellyse Maddocks, Senior Environmental Monitoring Officer – Knowledge and Partnerships, Environment Agency.

Student Feedback

“During my six weeks at the Environment Agency I gained practical fieldwork experience and the opportunity to learn new programmes such as the Catchment Planning System (CPS) and Easimap (a form of Geographical Information Systems (GIS)). It was really interesting to analyse the data at different sites along a water body, and then link it to the context of the waterbody in terms of stresses and land uses, using GIS.

“The internship also developed my understanding of environmental policy and law. I completed a number of courses, and received training in invertebrate identification - an invaluable skill. Overall, my understanding of hydrology, policy, and catchment management improved during the internship. I learned many new skills and have a much greater appreciation of what it is like to work within the EA, how it is organised, and the skills that they are looking for in applicants.” Jonathan Harvey, MSc International Innovation, Environment Agency Intern.

Future Plans

The EA continue to have a collaborative relationship with the university, and have a hot desk in the Lancaster Environment Centre.