Environmental Forensics

Environmental forensic chemistry investigations are critical to the determination of liability under a variety of scenarios, including but not limited to:

  • Allocation of responsibilities and costs for property transfers
  • Litigation pertaining to insurance claims
  • Toxic claims
  • Marine pollution events such as oil spills

Environmental forensic evaluations may also be a key component for liability management in site remediation activities, including legacy site clean-up. Chemtest uses an interdisciplinary approach to problem solving for environmental forensic investigations.  An essential element of our success is effective and defensible environmental sampling and analysis design together with planning for complex environmental problems.  The use of environmental forensic tools provides multiple lines of evidence in the allocation of responsible parties at contaminated sites.

Environmental Forensic Chemistry Approach and Applications

A common objective of forensic investigations is to translate environmental data into assigned responsibility for contamination.  In addition to the forensic tools employed for the investigation, successful execution requires an understanding of fate and transport associated with contaminant transformation.  Environmental forensic chemistry investigations typically utilise a multi-level tiered interpretive approach to support the identification of the source of contamination that has been characterised by sample analysis.  The environmental forensic process may integrate and leverage the expertise of environmental chemists, biochemists, biologists, microbiologists, ecologists, toxicologists, regulatory specialists and economists.

ChemTier 1 – Provides a fingerprint for identification purposes

Correct identification of the product type in contaminated samples is paramount in any environmental forensic investigation as this forms the foundation by which many of the conclusions are derived.  Both standard (e.g., EPA) and specialised analytical methods may be employed to identify a wide range of contaminants, including chlorinated solvents, dioxins, PCBs, metals, and specific hydrocarbon classes such as alkanes and PAHs.

ChemTier 2 – Specific compound signature targeting

At this level, additional information is sought for compounds that may be unique to the contamination material and/or are resistant to degradation in the environment.  Sample analysis may involve gas chromatography/mass spectrometry techniques to target selected compounds such as terpenoid biomarkers.

ChemTier 3 – Diagnostic interpretation

Following the ChemTier 1 and ChemTier 2 investigational analysis, a variety of multivariate data analysis techniques can be applied for selected data to determine the degree of similarity to source materials, degree of weathering and/or biodegradation.

Key Environmental Forensic Services

  • Chemical fingerprinting (e.g., GC-FID, GC/GC-FID, GC-MS, PIANO, geochemical biomarkers, additives & signature chemicals)
  • Isotopic fingerprinting (Bulk and CSIA)
  • Chromatogram interpretation
  • Double ratio cross plots
  • Model-based cluster analysis
  • PAH histogram profiling

Contact us for any technical queries.

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A number of different publications and standards cite sulphate methods. BR279 (1995) has largely been superseded by analytical procedures as detailed in TRL 447 and BRE Special Digest:1 2005 3rd Edition. In addition further reference may be made to BS EN 144-1:2009 + A1:2012 for the testing of aggregates and BS 1377:2018 for soils for civil engineering purposes.

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Testing & reporting is undertaken in accordance with BS 3882:2015 Specification for topsoil and BS 8601:2013 Specification for subsoil and requirements for use

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