What do environmental consultants actually do? Put simply, they check all aspects of the environment before land or buildings are purchased or before land or buildings are put to a different use. The environment covers a wide range of areas, and so environmental consultants do a wide range of jobs.
Working with Air
One of the important jobs that an environmental consultancy does is assess the quality of air in a particular area. This might be to see how traffic is affecting the air quality in a particular area or whether local industries are having an impact on the air in the area near to them. It may be to assess the amount or the source of particular air pollutants. It may be to assess the quality of air inside a particular building or industrial complex.
Working with Land
Another area where environmental consultancies work is in assessing the land. This can be to discover information about land before a sale, or it may be to investigate the source of pollution or contamination in order to find out who is responsible for remediating the site.
Contaminated land is a serious issue in the UK. There are various reasons why land might be designated as contaminated. For example, it might be the site of a historical landfill. Although these are regulated now, they haven’t always been. It’s possible that a service station, a gas works, a dry cleaners or a factory stood on the site. Land which has been used for industry is more likely to be contaminated, but it’s important to investigate before buying, not after.
The most common types of contaminants are heavy metals in the soil from historical or nearby industries, chemical solvents polluting the water aquifers or even arsenic in the waste from gas works. All of these will seriously affect the value of the land and the possible uses it can be put to.
Sometimes an environmental consultancy needs to investigate existing residential sites which have been built on or near land which is contaminated. Sometimes it’s the historical polluters who are liable for remediation, but sometimes it’s the current owners – and remediation can be expensive.
Working with Water
Environmental consultancies also frequently work with water. There have been many news articles recently about floods and flood damage, and one of the jobs an environmental consultant must do is assess the likelihood that the land being investigated will flood. This can involve looking at the flood records of the area and how near the land is to rivers or the sea and assessing what is known about other water sources. It also involves a detailed investigation of sewerage and drainage in the area. In this way, businesses and individuals can be well informed about the likelihood of flooding from various sources such as the river, the sea, surface water or blocked pipes.
In addition to the likelihood of flooding, an environmental consultancy will draw up a detailed plan for dealing with floods. Businesses can be destroyed by floods, especially if they haven’t taken precautions and planned for the worst. Precautions can mean financial precautions, but they can also mean drawing up a flood plan and organising buildings and contents in a way which minimises flood damage. Environmental consultants can recommend a range of measures, including flood-safe storage, electrical safety and, of course, how to keep residents and employees safe.