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Groundwater monitoring

environmental monitoring

Going beyond the

environmental impact statement Robin Ormerod, Managing Director, EnviroSuite

Before any large-scale construction project is approved, authorities are certain to require the preparation of a comprehensive environmental impact statement. Whether it’s the extension of a major highway, building a new airport runway, or the development of a shipping port, all the ways in which the surrounding environment could be affected must be assessed.

S

uch impact statements are complex documents that

project designs. During the construction phase, a network of sensors

need to incorporate data about a diverse range of

should be deployed that can collect data about key variables and feed

factors. First, the environmental conditions that exist

this back to a central store for analysis.

prior to the project’s commencement must be care-

The type, number and location of sensors will vary depending on

fully measured and documented. This could include

the nature of the construction project. For example, when building the

everything from water quality in rivers and lakes, to

highway extension, some could be placed on light poles to monitor air

soil quality, air quality and the health of any native birds and animals.

quality and noise levels. Others could be embedded in the roadway

Once this has been completed, estimates must be made of the

itself to monitor traffic volumes at particular times of day.

impact the completed project will have on this baseline data. Key ques-

In the airport project, sensors could be placed at the boundary

tions need to be asked about how particular factors will change the

of the facility to monitor the air quality and noise conditions being

environment and what steps can be taken to mitigate these changes.

experienced in the surrounding environment. In the shipping port,

How will increased traffic levels on the new highway affect local

they could be attached to moored buoys and detect changes in water

bird life? What will rising aircraft numbers do to noise levels in the

quality and aquatic noise levels that could affect local fish stocks.

area? To what degree will extra shipping movements be detrimental to water quality and fishing areas?

Ongoing data analysis Data from these sensor networks can then be combined with data from

Not a set-and-forget process

other sources. This could include weather conditions and forecasts,

Unfortunately, for many large construction projects, after approval has

feedback from local communities and incident reports, and operational

been granted, their detailed environmental impact assessment report

data about the new facility itself.

becomes little more than a document of record. The company agrees

Once all this data has been collected, sophisticated analysis tools

to adhere to any conditions of the construction approval relevant to

can be put to work to identify trends. These can then be compared

the impact assessment, but then focus shifts to the project itself. Little

with the original impact statement to see exactly how the new facility

attention is given to whether or not the estimated impacts occur, or

is affecting the surrounding areas.

are actually exceeded.

These tools can also undertake ‘what if’ scenario planning to deter-

To overcome this it is important for construction companies to

mine how changes in external conditions could change the impact of

incorporate the ability to undertake ongoing monitoring into their

the facility. For example, how could forecast heavy rain cause changes

38 Sustainability Matters - Apr/May 2017

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Sustainability Matters Apr/May 2017  

Sustainability Matters is a bi-monthly magazine showcasing the latest products, technology and sustainable solutions for industry, governmen...

Sustainability Matters Apr/May 2017  

Sustainability Matters is a bi-monthly magazine showcasing the latest products, technology and sustainable solutions for industry, governmen...