• Strathclyde Leads the Way in Environmental Forensics

Environmental Laboratory

Strathclyde Leads the Way in Environmental Forensics

Dec 15 2009

Academics at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow have received a £1 million boost to carry out groundbreaking research in environmental forensics.

The investment will enable the team to investigate contamination and pollution liability under new UK and EU laws. The funding has been awarded by the Glasgow Research Partnership in Engineering, and cements Strathclyde’s position as the UK’s leading university in the field. Professor Robert Kalin, Head of the University’s Department of Civil Engineering, said: "Environmental forensics is the key instrument available to untangle complex contamination issues, and ultimately, ensure that the responsible parties hold liability.

"With its potential to dramatically cut down investigation costs, environmental forensics will play a central role in the enforcement of new regulations. We’re delighted to receive this funding, which will help us to push the research boundaries of this emerging field." Professor Kalin’s group holds the only major research council platform grant in Environmental Forensics and with other on-going research funding is currently working with industry and government on real-world environmental forensics applications in the UK.

The news follows a number of high profile environmental investigations, most recently, a court case in Northamptonshire, where families claim their children were born with defects caused by exposure to toxic waste. The high court ruled that Corby Borough Council was liable in negligence, public nuisance and a breach of statutory duty for its control of steel works during the 1980s and 90s. The decision is the first to establish a link between atmospheric toxic waste and birth defects. Professor Kalin added: "Recent events highlight the importance of environmental forensics within an Environmental Health context.

"With new legislation in place, such as the EU Environmental Liability Directive, enforcing authorities will have to determine whether there is environmental damage and decide on the necessary remedial measures.

"Companies are increasingly liable for environmental damage and the linked liabilities have a powerful effect on new brownfield redevelopment and major civil engineering infrastructure projects. It is estimated that international firms could face new liabilities that could reach 60% of their annual profits."

The demand for expertise in this area led the University to set up a new MSc in Environmental Forensics last year - the first of its kind in the UK. The course, run jointly by the University’s Department of Civil Engineering and Centre for Forensic Science, allows students to learn about the cutting edge technologies in the field, and develop their ability to make judgments in relation to the impact of human activity on the environment. The Glasgow Research Partnership in Engineering is a major programme of investment in collaborative research involving the Scottish Funding Council and the four universities in the West of Scotland.

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