Coastal landfill and shoreline management: implications for coastal adaptation infrastructure

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: Faculty of Engineering & the Environment

Abstract

Our coastlines need to be managed into the future taking into account the effect of climate change on rising sea levels, whilst balancing public investment and benefits. There is a strong desire to move to more sustainable shoreline management, which allows coasts to be more dynamic in less developed coastal areas. Rather than rigidly defending and holding the existing coastline, shoreline management plans now consider the benefits of "managed realignment" and "no active intervention" policies. However, there is an important legacy of hundreds of coastal landfills located in flood plains around our coasts, including estuaries. This constrains a dynamic policy for shoreline management as storms and rising sea levels may lead to increased flushing of contaminants into the environment and erosion of the landfill may result in the direct exposure and release of potentially hazardous waste. It raises the question about the ability to move/process these landfills (facilitating a move to more dynamic coasts), or alternatively to continue to protect these sites under rising sea levels, potentially creating a lock-in to defence infrastructure approaches.

This project aims to apply NERC-funded and other relevant research at the University of Southampton, together with CIRIA generic guidance C718 on "Guidance on the management of landfill sites and land contamination on eroding or low-lying coastlines", to better understand the effective long-term management of coastal-located waste sites on dynamic coasts. In the context of shoreline management planning it will assess a series of different management approaches that have the potential to address the difficulties that coastal landfills pose.

We will identify 3 to 4 coastal landfills from Lyme Regis to Shoreham and consider their impact on three shoreline management plan strategic options (hold the line, managed realignment, and no active intervention) for two different climate change scenarios. Pollution risks arising from the dual hazards of flooding, leading to the release of contaminated water (leachate), and erosion of the landfills will be considered along with the potential for resource recovery from the old site in any options that involve moving and/or remediating the waste in situ.

Our project partners are the Environment Agency, SCOPAC (Standing Conference on Problems Associated with the Coastline) which is an influential network of local authorities and organisations with an interest in the management of the coast of central southern England, the Eastern Solent Coastal Partnership and the Channel Coastal Observatory hosted by New Forest District Council.

Keywords: Shoreline Management, climate change, sea level rise, flooding, landfill

Planned Impact

The impacts will be significant given that there are hundreds of landfills in threatened coastal locations around the coast of UK. Currently there is limited attempts to address this issue strategically. Our outputs will facilitate better methods to analyse this problem and promote strategic analysis which will more effectively manage and reduce the waste hazard. The benefits will be felt over the long term as more and more coastal landfills will become management issues over the coming decades. The main envisaged users are maritime local authorities who are responsible for these orphaned landfills. In addition, the EA with their flood plain management responsibilities will also benefit, as will landfill operators. The expected impact is better long-term planning of shoreline management, including recognising and addressing the management of landfill issues in a strategic manner.

The results will consist of better guidance on of how to manage contrasting old landfills on dynamic coasts including integration with shoreline management planning. These will be presented at relevant end-user meetings selected with our partners and/or webinars. In addition, the outputs of this research will be disseminated by CIRIA via publication or an industry briefing (with EA financial support to cover any costs). The material will also be hosted/linked to the EA and SCOPAC (an influential network of local authorities and organisations with an interest in the management of the coast of central southern England - see section 6) web sites. The impacts will initially be measured by the use of the reported results via download statistics. Over time the application of the methods will be recorded by the EA who have oversight of all shoreline management activity in England. We will engage with relevant organisations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The impacts will take place over a much longer timescale of multiple years and decades.
 
Description The project aimed to better understand the long-term management of coastal located waste sites on dynamic coasts and assess different management approaches to the problems that such landfills pose. There are many historic landfills in coastal areas that are at risk from flooding and erosion and this is likely to increase in future due to sea level rise. In less developed coastal areas, some shoreline management plans (SMPs) seek to allow natural physical processes such as erosion to progress. However, where a landfill is present, there may be a requirement to defend the shoreline to protect the environment and people from hazards that may be released from eroding or flooded landfills. The project estimated the long-term impact of coastal processes affected by sea level rise on three selected landfills and identified the risks posed by these landfills. Different management options to prevent pollution, such as removing the waste material or protecting the sites, were investigated. The project identified that there are fundamental science gaps regarding the:
• number of landfills, volume of waste, and potential for waste to be released from historic landfills
• severity of risks associated with sea level rise, which needs to be understood to inform strategies for shoreline management planning in relation to these sites
• lack of established methodologies for assessing the potential harm resulting from release of solid waste from historic landfills
• assessment of the hazards and risks of different contaminant pathways (e.g. ingestion by marine biota) posed by the release of solid waste into seawater
• wide range of waste materials and the limited data on how these are likely to behave in the marine environment over the long term.
Exploitation Route The findings showed the need for further research which has been taken up in a NERC Highlights Topic in 2019.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Environment

 
Description The outputs from the project have given the project partners (Environment Agency, CIRIA, Eastern Solent Coastal Partnership, Standing Conference on Problems associated with the Coastline (SCOPAC)), industry practitioners, and local authorities (Fareham Borough Council, Hampshire County Council, New Forest District Council, West Dorset District Council) a better understanding of the impacts coastal landfills have on SMP strategic options (hold the line, managed realignment, and no active intervention) under different climate change scenarios and the costs associated with implementing defence or remediation options. The project raised awareness of the risks that coastal landfills pose with the Environment Agency and the need to address regulation of solid waste release from these sites in light of the increasing risks due to sea level rise.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Environment
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Description Develop a new appendix to CIRIA C718 capturing the results of the project for practioners -- Guidance on the management of landfill sites. Supplementary guide. SP169 .pdf
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact Improved guidance on coastal landfill management for practioners available in "Guidance on the management of landfill sites. Supplementary guide. SP169" (ISBN: 978-0-86017-932-0)
URL https://ciria.sharefile.com/share/view/497d7e674bd541cb
 
Description ERIIP additional funding
Amount £24,899 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/N012909/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2017 
End 04/2017
 
Description Guidance on mangement of landfill sites and land contamination on eroding or low-lying coastlines: supplementary guidance
Amount £14,977 (GBP)
Organisation Environment Agency 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2018 
End 12/2018
 
Description Collaboration with Dr Kate Spencer QM UoL 
Organisation Queen Mary University of London
Department School of Geography
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Research team contributed to a NERC Highlights topic submission on "Characterising the consequences of wastes eroding from historic coastal landfills into the marine environment"
Collaborator Contribution Dr Kate Spencer Queen Mary (UoL) contributed to a NERC Highlights topic submission on "Characterising the consequences of wastes eroding from historic coastal landfills into the marine environment"
Impact Submission was made to NERC Highlights call, but was not taken up.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Collaboration with Prof. Kate Spencer Queen Mary University of London 
Organisation Queen Mary University of London
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Contribution to NERC Highlight topic "The Impact of Legacy Waste in the Coastal Zone"
Collaborator Contribution Contribution to and submission of NERC Highlight topic "The Impact of Legacy Waste in the Coastal Zone"
Impact The NERC highlight topic submission was successful resulting in a call for proposals. The University of Southampton and QMUL teams are working on a proposal to this call together with support from industry practitioners.
Start Year 2018
 
Description CIRIA Workshop: Guidance on management of landfill. Suppplementary guide 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation of a review of research findings and results from analysis of gaps in guidance to practitioners, local authorities and regulators. Breakout sessions centred on discussion of challenges faced by practitioners in relation to eroding coastal landfills and potential areas for further research. The workshop led to interest from a local authority and an invitation for the team to visit an eroding landfill in their area.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description CIWEM Spring Conference: Outcome Measures for Flood and Coastal Risk Management - Fit for the Future? 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The presentation raised awareness of the problems posed to shoreline planning by landfills in coastal areas.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Presentation to waste management industry 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact The presentation took place at a landfill aftercare forum run by the University of Southampton Waste Management Research Group to disseminate research work to waste management industry professionals. The presentation raised awareness of the growing problem of coastal erosion and sea level rise and potential impact on coastal landfills. It prompted discussion about the difficulties of finding funding to address the problems especially for local authorities who have responsibility for defending historic landfills in coastal areas.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://landss.soton.ac.uk/forum/mar17
 
Description Stakeholder meetings 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Meetings with project partners and stakeholders to discuss the scope and progress of the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017