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Shift Soil Remediation UK

Soil Contamination in West Africa.


Philip Kneebone and Daryn Short



Soil contamination and more broadly land degradation is one of the gravest problems existing on the earth. Like many developing regions, West Africa‟s land degradation and soil contamination are both widely spread and pose serious risk to the health and wealth of its people and the ecosystem. Soil contamination mainly comes from the use of harmful pesticides and insecticides in agriculture and the release of institutional, commercial and industrial waste into the environment which is often full of hazardous substances.

Exposure to contamination in soil is often unseen and involuntary but over-time the effects are evident as decreases in soil fertility result in decreases in the soil yield and this also shows up as disruption in the balance of flora and fauna. In extreme cases it causes human fatalities.

Africa can be rightly proud of its efforts and leadership role taken on hazardous waste and Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) like dioxins and furans. Africa has changed the course of history at national, regional and global levels through the prohibition of the worst of the hazardous waste trade. With the banning of these destructive practices under international law, human health and the environment will greatly benefit. And, with these cheap disposal methods closed off, industries generating hazardous wastes and toxic chemicals will have much greater incentive to implement clean production methods that do not result in the use and release of toxic substances in the environment.

In the industrialized world, the technology and understanding for cleaning soil at all types of pollution sites is well established, and life-threatening toxic pollution has

almost been eliminated.

supported by resources, the problems of land degradation and contaminated soil can

be remediated.

Armed with knowledge, driven by commitment and


C&D - construction waste and demolition waste DDT - Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane DQRA - Detailed Quantitative Risk Assessment EC - European Community EU - European Union GEF - Global Environment Facility GIS - Geographical Information System GPS Geographical Positioning System GQRA - Generic Quantitative Risk Assessment IC&I - institutional waste, commercial waste, and industrial waste IFPRI - International Food Policy Research Institute IPM - Integrated pest management IRIN - Integrated Regional Information Networks MDG - Millennium Development Goal MSW - municipal solid waste NGO - Non-governmental organization OAU - Organization of African Unity OECD - Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development PAN - Pesticide Action Network PCB - Polychlorinated biphenyl POP - Persistent organic pollutant SSAC - Site Specific Assessment Criteria UNEP - United Nations Environment Programme VOC - Volatile Organic Compounds WEEE - Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment WHO - World Health Organization

1. Introduction

Land degradation is a serious issue facing the world and refers to a temporary or permanent deterioration in the land‟s productive capacity. The term “Land” here goes beyond soil resources and includes all the intimately linked parts like water, landscape, vegetation and the microclimate.

Polluted soil can causes huge disturbances in the health of living creatures and the ecological balance but most types of soil degradation can be reversed including the removal of contaminates. Some of the effects of soil pollution are:

It can seriously disrupt the balance of nature and, in extreme cases, can cause human fatalities.

Destruction of vegetation that provides food and shelter.

Extermination of wild life.

Food grown on contaminated land can absorb contaminants that could be ingested by humans and livestock. The effects could be anything from deformities and learning disabilities in children to cancer and death.

Areas that have had the vegetation destroyed or killed become more susceptible to soil erosion which washes away valuable topsoil, spreading the contaminant into waterways.

Pesticides can damage crops; kill vegetation; and poison animals, birds, and fish. Most pesticides kill or damage life forms other than those intended. Some life forms develop immunity to pesticides used to destroy them.

Acid rain kills trees and other plants.

Soil is therefore a valuable commodity and deeply linked to the sustainability of life. This necessitates protection and management of this natural resource. A report from World Resource Institute and noted by Niemeijer and Mazzucato in 2002 indicate that an estimated 500 million hectares of land in Africa was affected by soil degradation since 1950, including as much as 65 percent of agricultural land.

The scale of the peril for Africa is immense as it did not enjoy the benefits of the “green revolution” in agriculture of the1940‟s to 1970‟s like India and others. By the 9O‟s the threat was well recognised and as organisations like the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), a leading research institute seeking sustainable solutions for ending hunger and poverty, started warning that by the year 2020 land degradation may pose a serious threat to food production and rural livelihoods, particularly in poor and densely populated areas of the developing world (Scherr, Sara, Yadav, & Satya, 1996). The 2008 Global Hunger Index (GHI) says sub-Saharan African countries have the highest level of hunger in the world, with Niger, Sierra Leone and Liberia experiencing “extremely alarming levels of hunger,” (IRIN, 2008).

The seriousness of the soil degradation problem in West Africa has been shown to directly relate to land productivity and is illustrated by the following data. (Koning, Heerink, & Kauffman, 2001)

Soil Degradation in millions of hectares

10 2 54 34

Wind ErosionSoil Degradation in millions of hectares 10 2 54 34 Water Erosion Chemical Deterioration Physical Deterioration

Water ErosionSoil Degradation in millions of hectares 10 2 54 34 Wind Erosion Chemical Deterioration Physical Deterioration

Chemical DeteriorationSoil Degradation in millions of hectares 10 2 54 34 Wind Erosion Water Erosion Physical Deterioration

Physical DeteriorationSoil Degradation in millions of hectares 10 2 54 34 Wind Erosion Water Erosion Chemical Deterioration

62 million hectares are affected by wind erosion

39 million by water erosion

12 million hectares by chemical deterioration

and 2 million hectares degraded by physical deterioration

Across Africa there is agricultural stagnation and a general state of soil decline with a range of causes including soil pollution. This has had significant effects on the potential of Africa principally owing to a high proportion of the population living in rural areas engaged in agricultural pursuits. As Niek Koning, a senior lecturer at the Department of Social Sciences of Wageningen University in the Netherlands wrote in


“During the European population booms of the 16th and 18th centuries, the obstacles to sustainable agricultural intensification were hardly less than in Africa today. But overcoming them was simpler because population growth raised the prices of agricultural products, encouraging farmer investment and innovation. The new dynamics of international agriculture complicated this picture in 20th century Africa. Other than in a few places with sufficient market demand or during the rare times that world market prices improved, prices were too low to allow farmers to invest. Rather than leading to sustainable intensification, therefore, population growth led to vicious cycles of impoverishment and soil degradation.

Agrarian malaise dragged the rest of society with it. Low rural incomes restricted the domestic market for industries and services, also depriving them of opportunities for warming up for competition on the world market. Rural poverty also bred conflict and distrust, which spread to the rest of society, plaguing modern enterprises with high transaction costs. Agrarian malaise caused a massive flight from the land. With no

strong non-farm sector to flee to, this led to a proliferation of marginal activities and a jostling for jobs in the public sector, encouraging bad governance and further complicating the situation for farmers.”

A lot of human related reasons have been purported as explanation for the general decline of African soils, including but not exclusively, a growing population, lack of agricultural modernisation and widespread poverty. Almost undeniably during the 20 th century, strong population growth related pressures led to the vicious cycles of impoverishment and soil degradation.

At a basic level, a lack of human and physical resources leads to land degradation which thwarted the attainment of future resources needed to break the cycle and improve livelihoods. Africa uses extensive farming systems and faces strong drivers on using land much more intensively. Over 50 percent of the African population is rural and directly reliant on locally grown food. This farming can be sustainable if farmers invest in fertiliser, and in soil and water conservation, but these pressures further expose this valuable resource to degradation.

Rapid urbanisation will worsen the problem as it and the associated industrial development, if not properly managed, leads to further intense pollution. Ultimately a shift toward integrated soil management technologies in West Africa is critically dependent on adequate policy conditions (Kauffman, Koning, Heerink, N, & Heerink,


Soil degradation is directly related to many of the UN‟s Millennium Development Goal‟s (MDG) particularly 1 st MDG to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger and 7 th MDG to ensure environmental sustainability. While alone presenting a strong argument for action, it is the possible socio-economic benefits of environmental management that also support the idea that soil pollution is worthy of attention.

2. What this Briefing Does

Exposure to contamination is often unseen and involuntary. The lack of control people feel and a lack of knowledge about the issues may amplify concerns and fears. An effective risk-communication strategy is needed to provide stakeholders with sufficient understanding to have constructive input in developing a solution, to re-gain an element of control over the situation. This guidance document is designed to assist those communicating with the public and other stakeholders about land contamination risks. It provides:

insight into cause and effect of land pollution/contamination;

associated health and safety issues;

shows a history of how and why the pollutants arrived on site; and

gives practical advice on how to effectively solve land contamination problems.

This briefing will assist others in developing a robust strategy that addresses the multitude of complexities inherent in land contamination and the associated risks.

As the issues and risks posed by land contamination vary so widely, this brief document does not present definitive risk solutions. Nor does it include advice on evaluating land contamination to determine the risks to health or the wider environment. References are provided at the end of this brief that point to general sources of guidance on these topics.

3. Sources of Contamination

Soil pollution can be described as the contamination of soil of a particular region and

is often caused by the dispersion of harmful pesticides and insecticides. While not

alone to blame for soil pollution, these insecticides and pesticides (used to serve whatever their main purpose is) cause deterioration in the soil quality making it contaminated and unfit for use. Many other activities result in soil contaminations from spills and accidents to the improper handling of waste. Below are some leading

causes of land pollution.

Industrial wastes, such as harmful gases and chemicals, agricultural pesticides, fertilizers and insecticides are the most important causes of soil pollution.

Unhealthy waste management techniques, characterised by release of sewage into the large dumping grounds and nearby streams or rivers.

Ignorance towards soil management and related systems.

Unfavourable and harmful irrigation practices.

Improper septic system and management and maintenance of the same.

Leakages from sanitary sewage.

Acid rain.

Fuel leakages from automobiles, get washed away due to rain and seep into the nearby soil.

Illegal dumping of hazardous waste.

Some low levels of toxic heavy metals may naturally be present in the soil (this is normal and does not necessarily pose health risks) and things like asbestos likewise naturally occur, but as the above list indicated, the sources are largely man made. So beyond the minimal geological source it is really an interaction of environmental challenges and the human responses to these which results in what is called the anthropogenic source of pollution.

A major anthropogenic source possess significant risks and in most cases. A case in

point of this anthropogenic source is the human response to desert locusts which have threatened agricultural production in Africa and western Asia for thousands of years. Normally a solitary insect the desert locust occurs in desert and scrub regions of northern Africa, the Sahel (region including the countries of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger). When swarming the only available and effective control tactic

is insecticides which pose environmental dangers. Insecticide applications occur

throughout a gradient of ecosystems: xeric desert, lush coastal hills, fertile Mediterranean flatlands, wetlands, islands, mountains, steppes, wadis (riverbeds), and oases. (Showler)

Prior to the late 1980's, chlorinated hydrocarbon insecticides, such as dieldrin and lindane, were sprayed on vegetation to create barriers against marching and feeding nymphal bands but due to concerns about the fate of such insecticides in the environment, the use of these chemicals has largely been discontinued. The 1986- 1989 emergency crop protection campaign was pivotal in the sense that it was conducted when persistent chlorinated hydrocarbon insecticides were being phased out of the insecticide arsenal. Reliance on more selective but less persistent insecticides in ultra-low volume formulations became the rule (e.g. malathion, chlorpyrifos, fenitrothion, deltamethrin, carbaryl, and lamdacyhalothrin), although though other formulations such as emulsifiable concentrates, dusts, and wettable powders were also used

Without persistent chemicals for barrier spraying, control with less persistent insecticides required making applications against each nymphal band. Despite the fact that long residual insecticides are no longer viewed as being acceptable, there has been considerable debate about whether fewer persistent insecticide applications is more potentially hazardous than greater area coverage with less persistent, more selective insecticides. In the more recent 1986-1989 plagues, major desert locust invasions occurred in 23 countries and control operations covered about 25.9 million ha mostly with the aim of protecting cropping zones at immediate risk. (Showler)

Waste is another substantial source of anthropogenic pollution, through activities like agriculture, Industry and transportation. There are 5 common types of waste leading to land pollution, grouped into:

agricultural waste;

municipal solid waste (MSW);

institutional waste, commercial waste, and industrial waste (IC&I);

construction waste and demolition waste (C&D);

hazardous waste, radioactive waste, and electronic waste.

These all offer routes to land contamination. For example, electrical waist or WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) describes discarded, surplus, obsolete, or broken electrical devices that contain a range of dangerous toxic substances like lead, cadmium, beryllium and mercury. This e-waste is things like TV sets which are often illegally exported to Africa from Europe and then badly discarded and scraped in countries like Nigeria and Ghana. Here they are stripped of their raw metals by young men and children, who make their living working on poisoned waste dumps, and left to severely damage the environment.

This is hazardous waste under British and EU law and could not be exported legally as it states that „only equipment which is still functioning can be legally exported to developing countries in West Africa‟. Only 450,000 tonnes of the estimated one million tonnes of e-waste produced in Britain each year is recycled within the UK, leaving more than 500,000 tonnes unaccounted for (Milmo, 2009).

4. Health Implications of Contaminated Soil

Soil pollution causes imbalance in nature, resulting from the harm caused to the wildlife and vegetation on the land. It also adversely affects human respiratory systems and results in various skin problems if the toxic materials of the soil come in contact with the skin. The consumption of fruits and vegetables that are grown in contaminated soil can lead to severe health hazards in human beings.

Furthermore, when contaminated soil is washed away in the water reservoirs, it leads to water pollution, which is lethal to the aquatic flora and fauna. The soil contaminants are also driven by the wind, causing air pollution, which is detrimental to health. Contaminants can also leach into the water table posing a large threat to people drawing borehole water.

Some of the most serious soil pollution effects are touched on below.

Decrease in soil fertility and therefore decrease in the soil yield. How can one expect a contaminated soil to produce healthy crops?

Loss of soil and natural nutrients present in it. Plants would also not thrive in such a soil, which would further result in soil erosion.

Disturbance in the balance of flora and fauna residing in the soil.

Increase in salinity of the soil, which therefore makes it unfit for vegetation, thus making it useless and barren.

Generally crops cannot grow and flourish in a polluted soil. Yet if some crops manage to grow, then those would be poisonous enough to cause serious health problems in people consuming them.

Creation of toxic dust is another potential effect of soil pollution.

Foul smell due to industrial chemicals and gases might result in headaches, fatigue and nausea.

Soil pollutants would bring in alteration in the soil structure, which could lead to death of many essential organisms in it. This would also affect the larger predators and compel them to move to other places, once they lose their food supply.

Children are particularly at risk due to physiological differences and are more vulnerable than adults. They tend to have higher exposures since they eat, drink and breathe more per kilogram of body weight than adults and tend to ingest a lot more dirt and house dust than adults.

Pollution causes chronic illness, neurological damage and shortened lifespan. For example, the presence of lead (Pb) in children lowers I.Q. by estimated 4-7 points for each increase of 10 μg/dL (ATSDR). The seriousness of toxic Pb and other heavy metals occurrences in the environment (soil, air and water) is of major concern to human life and the environment (Caselles , Colliga, & Zornoza, 2004) (Chen, et al., 2009) (Iwegbue, Egobueze, & Opuene, 2006) (Zhao, Schulin, & Nowack, 2009) (Hartley, Dickinson , Clemente, French, Piearce , & Sparke, 2009).

The World Health Organization estimates that 25% of all deaths in the developing world are directly attributable to environmental factors and this rises to nearly 35% in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa (WHO), a region with many of the world‟s Least Developed Countries. Some researchers estimate that exposure to pollution causes 40 percent of deaths annually (Pimentel, 2007).

5. Risks Associated with Contaminated Soil

There are obviously a large number of risks to health and the sustainable environment from contaminated soil. These risks can be handled by the usual method of risk management with steps like risk removal or remediation, risk avoidance, risk control and/or protective equipment. But solutions invariably cost money and Africa cannot be certain to be able to enforce on the accountable a polluter pays system. Often multinational polluters get off lightly or totally without sanction despite the harm they caused to the environment or contributed to loss of life or property.

As the case history of the worst eco-disaster in Bhopal, India (1984) shows this is rarely the case. On this occasion poisonous gas was expelled from a US-owned company, Union Carbide, which affected half a million people, immediately killing 2,300 with another 15,000 to 30,000 dying subsequently and seriously effecting many thousand other.

Neither Union Carbide nor Dow Chemical, which bought the firm in 2001, accepted responsibility for the disaster. In 1989 Union Carbide paid $470m in a deal with the Indian government. Given the enormity of the disaster this was a miniscule and totally inadequate amount for the thousands of lives affected.

Due to the intimacy of soil and life, the socio-political fall-out can be immense. Further, the response of people to land contamination issues can be difficult to predict, and can be driven by the many different fears or concerns following (SNIFFER , 2010):

Health of self and family: Health fears are often of the utmost priority - particularly in relation to children (and sometimes pets or livestock as well).

Damage to the environment: Many people have passionate feelings for the environment with socio-economic and political motives and/or a sense of moral obligation to protect the environment. This can be important for some who may try to steer the remediation process toward creating a “greenfield” environment, rather than making it “suitable for use” or within acceptable limits.

Property values: The importance of house values to home owners cannot be over- estimated. They encapsulate the fruits of labours past as well as hopes for the future, pensions and, ultimately, a legacy to loved ones. As a result, anything which threatens housing as a store of monetary value can have a very powerful effect on people‟s emotions and behaviours. Contamination issues may lead to fears of blight and difficulties in selling homes due to the perceptions in the wider community of problems on the site.

Liability: The possibility of householders being found directly liable for remediation costs and are potentially distressing. Additionally, home insurance policies may specifically exclude claims related to land contamination.

Level of confidence in government’s ability to protect: In the past, some shortfall in the normal checks and balances may have allowed development to proceed on a site which would not normally be considered suitable. This may undermine the public‟s confidence in the planning and development process for ensuring safe re-use of contaminated sites, leading to wariness on the public‟s part. This dissatisfaction with local and national government often crosses political boundaries.

Amenity: Many fear or resent that remediation work to address contamination may lead to a loss of amenity (e.g. loss of a place for children to play, to walk, exercise pets, jog or ride a bike or loss of pretty views).

6. Geographical Range of Soil Contamination

There are some difficulties to assess the true extent and impact of land degradation and particularly declines in soil fertility and health. These effects can be disguised by the land being converted to less demanding uses by farmers or through increasing levels of compensating inputs like fertiliser.

During the period 1979-81 and 1994-96 food production per capita in West Africa declined by almost 0.5% per year on average (and non-food agricultural production per capita declined slightly faster). During the same period, fertiliser consumption first increased from 6.9 kg per ha in 1979-81 to 11.0 kg per ha in 1991-93, and subsequently declined to 7.5 kg per ha in 1994-96 (Kauffman, Koning, Heerink, N, & Heerink, 2000).

There are a large number of verifiable individual examples that help to demonstrate the plight of soil contamination across West Africa. We offer only a few here to illustrate the point.

For decades now, places like Nigeria‟s Niger Delta have suffered with devastating environmental catastrophes writes John Vidal of The Observer (UK), as more oil is spilled from the delta's network of terminals, pipes, pumping stations and oil platforms every year than that which was lost in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico Spill.

The Delta supports 606 oil fields that supply close to 40 percent of U.S. oil imports. On 1 May 2010, a ruptured ExxonMobil pipeline in the state of Akwa Ibom spilled more than 7,000 imperial gallons into the delta before the leak was stopped. Within days of the Ibeno spill, thousands of barrels of oil were spilled when the nearby Shell Trans Niger pipeline was attacked by rebels. A few days after that, a large oil slick was found floating on Lake Adibawa in Bayelsa state and another in Ogoniland. This is not the first nor last oil spill in the Delta with much of the region being devastated by oil leaks from the 40-year old pipelines regularly breaking and pouring oil into the locals‟ fishing grounds and drinking water. (Vidal, 2010)

A report, compiled by WWF UK, the World Conservation Union and representatives

from the Nigerian Federal Government and the Nigerian Conservation Foundation, calculated in 2006 that up to 1.5m tons of oil 50 times the pollution unleashed in the Exxon Valdez tanker disaster in Alaska has been spilled in the delta over the past half century. According to Nigerian federal government figures, there were more than 7,000 spills between 1970 and 2000, and there are 2,000 official major spillages sites, many going back decades, with thousands of smaller ones still waiting to be cleared up. More than 1,000 spill cases have been filed against Shell alone and Shell admitted

to spilling 14,000 tonnes of oil in 2009. Nosdra, the government's national oil spill

detection and response agency says that between 1976 and 1996 alone, more than 2.4m barrels contaminated the environment. "Oil spills and the dumping of oil into waterways have been extensive, often poisoning drinking water and destroying vegetation. (Vidal, 2010)

Desert locusts and their control has also lead to wide spread pollution. The desert locust is normally a solitary insect that occurs in desert and scrub regions of northern Africa, the Sahel (region including the countries of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger) but when swarming the only available and effective control tactic for these locusts is insecticides. In the 1986-1989 plagues alone, desert locust invasions occurred in 23 countries and control operations covered about 25.9 million ha mostly with the aim of protecting cropping zones at immediate risk. (Showler)

In the 80s Africa was a preferred victim for shipments of toxic wastes: in places like

Koko, Nigeria; Kassa Island, Guinea; Cato Ridge and South Africa (Bernstorff & Stairs, 2000). By the late 1980s Africa was then first to respond politically to the threat

of such waste colonialism. In unprecedented numbers, African nations attended the

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) negotiations for the drafting of a new global treaty to regulate hazardous waste trade - the Basel Convention. African nations called for the adoption of bans within the Basel Convention however, when adopted in 1989, their concerns were largely ignored by a handful of industrialized nations such as the UK, Germany, France and the US (Bernstorff & Stairs, 2000). At that time, such countries insisted on their right to transfer their toxic legacy to others.

The Organization of African Unity (OAU) took up the challenge and provided leadership for the drafting of an African convention to prohibit all hazardous, including radioactive waste imports into Africa, The Bamako Convention, adopted in 1991 entered into legal force in April 1998. The African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries and the European Community also agreed in the Lomé IV Convention, on a total import ban for the ACP countries on all hazardous, including radioactive wastes for any reason. These self-preservation measures (the adoption of the Lomé IV Convention ban and the Bamako Convention ban) did not stop waste been dumped in Africa, but this time it was illegal. Africa continued to advocate a no-exceptions ban on all hazardous waste exports for any reason from the most industrialised countries (OECD Member States) to the non-OECD States within the global Basel Convention regime. (Bernstorff & Stairs, 2000)

In September 1995, the ban was transformed into a formal amendment to the Basel

Convention and in 1997 the European Union implemented the Basel ban in their legislation as a no-exceptions ban on all hazardous waste exports from the 15 EU

Member States (all OECD States) to non-OECD countries. In addition, other non-EU, OECD States such as Norway, Iceland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Switzerland, and Turkey fully supported the EU position and partly implemented the Basel ban in the same way. By 1997, well over half of all OECD States (21 States) strongly supported the Basel ban and its implementation. By 2010 the Convention had 174 Parties with the total number of 69 ratifications to ban Amendment to the Basel Convention to the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal Geneva. This situation greatly assisted the enforcement of African bans, by prohibiting the trade at the OECD export end. There are also now masses of obsolete pesticides stockpiled across Africa. The total estimated to exist in Africa was 20,000 tonnes but as more stockpiles are being declared, including heavily contaminated soil and empty and contaminated pesticide containers, the current total stands at nearly 50,000 tonnes and is likely to increase much above this total. (Bernstorff & Stairs, 2000)

The challenge has moved to Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) chemical substances that persist in the environment, bio-accumulate through the food web, and pose a risk of causing adverse effects to human health and the environment. Under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme‟s (UNEP‟s) call for global action in 1995, the international community began negotiating a global treaty in 1998. The negotiations where completed in 2001 in Stockholm. The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants entered into force in May 2004 with ratification by an initial 128 parties and as of August 2010 Ireland was the 172 nd party to ratify the convention. Once POPs become classified as „wastes, parties to the Stockholm Convention are required to:

a) Develop and implement appropriate strategies for identifying stockpiles, products and articles in use that contain or are contaminated with POPs;

b) Manage stockpiles and wastes in an environmentally sound manner;

c) Dispose of waste so that the POPs content is destroyed or irreversibly transformed;

d) Not permit the recycling, recovery, reclamation, direct reuse or alternative use of the POPs;

e) Endeavour to develop strategies for identifying contaminated sites and perform eventual remediation in an environmentally sound manner.

These are either stockpiled in substandard storage facilities, kept in the open or under trees with little or no safeguarding thereby endangering or contaminating soils, ground and drinking water and agricultural irrigation systems. Some are strewn across the environmental landscape of receiving countries and some have been introduced through illegal markets or cross-border smuggling.

Over ten years, development and aid organizations such as the above-mentioned have provided support for removing hazardous obsolete pesticides from a number of countries. These have been repackaged, entirely or in part, removed and brought to European hazardous waste treatment facilities. Waste incinerators worldwide are a source of POPs themselves. The substances were combusted in hazardous waste incinerators, mostly in the Netherlands and Great Britain (Bernstorff & Stairs, 2000).

Some of the highest quantities of pesticides stockpiled are in Mali of which there are over 10000 tonnes. Problems with labelling, storage, and the supply of unsuitable products, means that they sit around unused, some for as long as 40 years. They include poisons long ago banned (e.g. DDT, aldrin, dieldrin, chlordane, heptachlor, and others). In some cases the pesticides have leaked from damaged containers. (UNEP, 2004)

pesticides have leaked from damaged containers. (UNEP, 2004) While the challenge to raise the standards of

While the challenge to raise the standards of welfare in west Africa is great 1 ; there is hope and practical examples exist, where these challenges offer an opportunity to showcase a more optormistic side and potential to Africa.

The 2009 World's Worst Polluted Places: 12 Cases of Clean-up and Success of pollution in some of the world‟s worst polluted places (worstpolluted, 2009). Here there are 2 sub-Saharan African counties highlighted for their success at tackling large contamination problems.

Accra, Ghana was commended for the broad commercialisation of innovative cooking stoves to reduce indoor air pollution that causes respiratory illnesses among women and children. In Old Korogwe, Tanzania commendations were for the removal of a stockpile of pesticides (e.g., DDT) responsible for contaminating soil and a nearby river and poisoning of the local residents.

1 For more detailed examples and case histories of illegal POPs dumping in Africa, see Greenpeace’s submission to the Fifth Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for an International Legally Binding Instrument for Implementing International Action on Certain Persistent Organic Pollutants (Bernstorff & Stairs, 2000)

7. Soil Contamination Solutions

A Phase I (Desk Study) involves the identification of potential sources of contamination, pathways and receptors by the assessment of desk based information such as historical plans, geological maps and industrial profiles. A qualitative risk assessment is then performed for the site based on the conceptual model.

Where the Phase I Desk Study identifies potentially significant source-pathway- receptor linkages, then a Phase II (Site Investigation) may be carried out to provide quantitative information on the contaminant source, to assess pathways and the risk to the receptors as part of a Generic Quantitative Risk Assessment (GQRA).

Phase II involves obtaining soil and/or groundwater samples and submitting them for chemical analysis. Soil and rock samples are obtained by the drilling or excavation of the ground. Contaminant concentrations in soil and groundwater are compared with available generic assessment criteria and if concentrations are particularly elevated, then a Detailed Quantitative Risk Assessment (DQRA) can be performed. A DQRA involves the use of computer models to derive Site Specific Assessment Criteria (SSAC) for comparison with contaminant concentrations in soil. Innovative new technologies such as the Safe Soil Tester (Crown Bio, UK) can be used to screen for potential contaminants. Screening can reduce the number of samples that are sent for chemical testing, resulting in enormous cost benefits. Areas can then be „mapped‟ using GIS and GPS technology which can help in audit purposes.

7.1 Groundwater Risk Assessment

The UK Environment Agency published the Remedial Targets Methodology; Hydrogeological Risk Assessment for Land Contamination in December 2006 which provides a tiered structure for assessing the risk to groundwater and surface water receptors from soil and/or groundwater contamination. The methodology involves increasingly complex equations to derive remedial targets in soil from Level 1 to Level 4 and in groundwater from Level 2 to 4. The remedial target becomes less conservative at increasing levels as more site specific data is used. The remedial target is based on reducing the soil and/or groundwater concentrations at the contamination source to a concentration that poses no significant risk to receptors.

7.2 Remediation

Remediation is usually required when the results of the GQRA or DQRA indicate that contaminant concentrations pose a significant risk to critical receptors.

Account has to be taken of the practicability, durability and effectiveness of remediation options, and whether remediation is reasonable given the likely cost and the seriousness of the harm or pollution. In general, remediation requires assessment, remedial treatment, and monitoring. Remedial activities may require planning permission and/or other environmental permits.

Remediation may involve:

Contaminant source removal, destruction or conversion to less mobile or toxic forms;

Blocking the pathway between the source and receptors;

Changing the receptor, e.g. from residential to commercial land use.

The degree of remediation required for an area of contaminated land is primarily dependant on its intended use. In practice this means that a site to be redeveloped as a car park would require less stringent remediation than a site proposed for housing.

Traditional engineering approaches in the UK have included excavation and removal of contaminated soil to licensed landfill sites and containment/capping in situ. Remediation treatment technologies can be applied either ex-situ (excavation of soil followed by treatment) or in-situ.

Some examples of remedial treatments are outlined below:

Ex-situ on-site bioremediation New developing technology by Shift Soil Remediation has revolutionised soil remediation; recently allowing remediation to take place both ex-situ and on-site. Contaminated soil is mechanically excavated and run through mobile treatment machinery on-site. These new methods reduce costs of transport as well as costs of replacing topsoil. If applied correctly, this technology can be quicker and more thorough than older methods.

Ex-situ off-site bioremediation Bio-farming or windrow turning (a term borrowed from a composting technique in agriculture) involves the mechanical excavation of contaminated soil and placement into thick layers or heaps. Regular mechanical turning and tilling of the heaps is then carried out to improve the aeration of the soil. Naturally occurring microorganisms in the soil facilitate biodegradation of the contaminant and thereby reduce the source concentrations to a site specific remedial target.

In-situ bioremediation Bio-sparging involves drilling a series of wells, a mixture of bacteria and oxides are pumped into the ground. The method is useful when there are structures or obstructions that cannot be demolished or moved from site. This method can take some time to produce clean soil, and even then it cannot be 100% guaranteed.

Thermal Desorption Thermal treatment of contaminated soil is fairly popular but costly method of soil remediation. Soil is heated up to 1300 o C to vaporise contaminates. These Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC‟s) are captured by carbon scrubbers. The treatment is suitable for most contaminants with the exception of heavy metals. The process kills everything living in the soil, so nutrients and “life” need to be added back to the soil to make it topsoil quality.

Chemical Processes

Oxidation/reduction or redox reactions are used to achieve a reduction in toxicity or solubility of contaminants such as organic compounds and heavy metals. Examples include oxidising agents such as ozone, hydrogen peroxide and chlorine gas and reducing agents such as specific iron compounds, sodium and zinc metals, and alkaline polyethylene glycols.

Dechlorination involves the use of reducing agents to remove chlorine atoms from chlorinated compounds to form less hazardous compounds. This process can be used to treat polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), organochlorine pesticides and volatile halogen hydrocarbons.

Chemical Extraction involves the extraction of a contaminant using, for example, organic solvents or acids for metal extraction and subsequent treatment of the extraction liquid.

Natural monitored attenuation is also being used as a remedial method by some large chemical companies in the UK. Natural attenuation reduces the risks posed by contamination in soil and or groundwater using naturally occurring processes.

8. Funding

Funding for clean-up operations in Africa are not always easy to come by, with total clean-up estimated to be in hundreds of billions (U.S.). Funding is being made more available, and is more directly targeted at specific issues.

Funding is, has or will be made available in a number of different ways;

Some funds were set aside to clean-up areas before contamination. A prime example would be the funds set aside by major petroleum, chemical and pharmaceutical companies when developing DDT and other pesticides/herbicides.

Environmental law enforcement means more polluters are paying. An example would be BP in the Gulf of Mexico or Shell off the coast of Nigeria.

Western companies and countries that rely on the resources of Africa see the potential in cleaning up occurring, this is compounded by the need to abide by western law when importing. For example, countries producing oil need to clean up their act before they can sell to Europe.

Countries that colonised Africa (like France) also make funds available.

Although there are a number of organisations set up to help the clean-up efforts in Africa, one of the bigger players would be the Global Environment Facility (GEF), who have invested US$341 million for measures to reduce human and environmental exposure to POPs, with an additional US$474 million leveraged through private sector and other sources. The GEF is helping 135 countries meet their obligations under the Stockholm Convention to develop a National Implementation Plan. (GEF, 2009)

9. Areas Indirectly Affected

Every year, billions of tons of eroded mineral soils (dust) are carried from the Saharan Desert and the Sahel, via the Saharan Air Layer, to the Americas, the Caribbean, Europe and the Near East. The quantity of soil eroded, lifted into the atmosphere and transported long distances varies with global climate, tropical sea surface temperatures, regional meteorology, surface composition, and land use in the dust source region. It is strongly believed, and evidence is emerging that these winds not only carry the nutrients and microbes, it carries contaminants too. Studies have found POPs and metals associated with African dust air masses in the Caribbean. More studies hare still being done to establish the extent of the contamination. (Garrison, et al., Saharan dust a carrier of persistent organic pollutants).

Although the use of the very worst pesticides are prohibited by international law, contamination of crops still occures in a number of ways;

Use of illegal of banned herbisides/pesticides;

Impropper application of even approved pesticedes/herbisides;

Bio-accumulation of historical pestisides/herbisides in the soil

Spills and illegal dumping

Contaminants will often be absorbed by plants and animals that we eat, as well as being coated in pesticides/herbisides. This food is then exported all over the world. In most of the Western world, food is tested to meet standards, but most of Africa is not so lucky. In the end, the contaminated food will still be eaten.

10. Conclusion

The challenges of Africa are immense with some structural risks to sustainability from:

a growing largely rural population; high levels of the world‟s disease burden; not

having benefited from the green revolution in agriculture; and low per capita incomes.

There are additional difficulties assessing the true extent and impact of land

degradation and particularly declines in soil fertility and health. What is clear is that it

is geographically widely spread and poses significant risk to West African

sustainability. In the case of soil pollution it directly threatens life and health of people and the naturally flourishing ecosystem.

West Africa faces a number of challenges around soil, food and health and needs commitment, resources and good policy to create the sustainable African Renaissance that is so wanted. West Africa needs to:

improve information systems for land management;

promote investment in land improvements;

increase research and technology development;

modify property rights to encourage long-term land investments;

develop flexible participatory planning systems for sustainable land use;

support local organisations to manage local resources;

clean-up contaminated land where it causes risk;

adopt a 'polluter pays' principle for ecological disasters;

encourage producers, suppliers and countries of origin of illegal hazardous waste to assume full logistic, technical and financial responsibility;

enact local and regional environmental management systems;

seek options of disposal methods for POPs other than incineration;

develop marketing infrastructure under an “infant industry” argument;

correct distortive price incentives;

Encourage rural income growth and diversification.

West Africa‟s land challenges offer a space to celebrate success in clean-up of sites and for bringing around the Basel Convention. Africa has further led the charge on POPs and has much to be proud of. The risks posed by West African soil degradation have causes and consequences that are globally linked. It will require commitment and resources but the technology and knowledge already exists so the possibility is there.


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