Glossary Entry:- Italy Risk management
Risk management is an approach to decision making for historically contaminated sites where the
need for action, and the nature of any possible actions, is decided on the basis of risk assessment.
1. General Approach
Land contamination in its broadest sense describes a general spectrum of site and soil conditions.
It can include areas with elevated levels of naturally occurring substances, as well as specific
sites which have been occupied by former industrial uses which may have left a legacy of contamination
from operational activities or from waste disposal. It can also include areas of land where substances
have been deposited by direct or indirect events, such as accidents or spillages or aerial deposition.
In general terms these circumstances can be described as land affected by contamination. But for
any individual site the land manager or other interested person faces two questions:
„h does the contamination matter? and, if so
„h what needs to be done about it?
The specific context of past contamination
The answer to the questions above depends to some extent on when the contamination happened. For
ˇ§newˇ¨ contamination, the accepted principle is that any deterioration of the environment needs
to be avoided. This principle underlies the approach in regimes aimed at controlling potentially
polluting activities, such as Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC). These regimes
have enforcement mechanisms for dealing with cases where the land contamination is caused, for example
as a result of breaches in permit conditions. In these circumstances, the land should be restored
to a satisfactory state ˇV taken as the state before the start of the process.
However, Government policy recognises that when dealing with past contamination, the opportunity
to maintain a clean environment has already gone. In deciding whether contamination matters, whilst
the amount, or concentration, of any contaminants present is always going to a significant factor,
it does not provide the whole answer: it is also necessary to consider to what extent the substances
present may harm human health or the wider environment, or damage property such as buildings. In short,
what risk, if any, is caused by contaminants, and is that risk unacceptable?
This need to make judgements about the degree of risk also applies to deciding what to do about the
contamination. Technical obstacles as well as potentially massive costs mean that it is often neither
feasible nor realistic to think in terms of total clean-up of past damage. Instead the goal is to find
solutions which identify and deal with risks from contamination in a sustainable way.
The overall approach in dealing with past land contamination is therefore one of risk management
ˇV implying ˇ§all the processes involved in identifying, assessing and judging risks, taking actions
to mitigate or anticipate them, and monitoring and reviewing progressˇ¨
2. Policy and Regulation
What do we mean by Risk
The term risk is widely used in different contexts and circumstances, often with differing definitions.
In Government publications about the environment, it has been given the following definition:
Risk is a combination of the probability, or frequency, of occurrence of a defined hazard and the
magnitude of the consequences of the occurrence.
The idea of the ˇ§pollutant linkageˇ¨
In the context of land contamination, there are three essential elements to any risk:
„h a contaminant ˇV a substance which is in, on or under the land and has the potential to cause harm
or to cause pollution of controlled waters
„h a receptor ˇV in general terms, something that could be adversely affected by a contaminant,
such as people, an ecological system or a water body, and
„h a pathway ˇV a means by which a receptor can be exposed to, or affected by, a contaminant.
Each of these elements can exist independently, but they create a risk only where they are linked
together ˇV so that a particular contaminant affects a particular receptor through a particular
pathway. This combination of contaminant-pathway-receptor is described as a pollutant linkage.
On any individual site, there may be only a single pollutant linkage or there may be several. Different
pollutant linkages may be related ˇV for example, the same contaminant may be linked to two or more
distinct types of receptor by different pathways ˇV or different contaminants may affect the same
receptor. Not all receptors will be relevant in every context. Each pollutant linkage needs to be
separately identified, understood and dealt with if appropriate.
Deciding whether risk matters
Without a pollutant linkage, there is not a risk. But even where there is a pollutant linkage the
question still needs to be asked as to whether the level of risk justifies action to deal with the risk.
This again will depend on the context.
For example, Government policy for dealing with past land contamination focuses on taking action
where there are ˇ§unacceptable risks to human health and the environmentˇ¨ in relation to the current
use of the land and for certain defined receptors. This is carried forward into the definition of contaminated
land under the regulatory regime in Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. In planning
and development control, the aim is to ensure that there are no unacceptable risks not only to the receptors
relevant to Part IIA but also to others which may be covered by other regimes, but again taking into
account the use of the land ˇV in this case the proposed new use.
The question of whether risk is unacceptable in any particular case involves not only scientific
and technical evaluation of the particular circumstances, but also appropriate criteria to judge
the risk (exactly what risk would be unacceptable?). In the context of Part IIA, the Government has
provided general criteria in the statutory guidance. In other contexts, other decision-makers
(such as site owners or planning authorities) may need to establish the appropriate criteria.
Site Project Funding
No further funding information available on the EUGRIS system
4: Management tools / decision support and guidance
No further information available