Webinar summary: Singapore and Denmark share soil quality perspectives
Updated: Dec 29, 2020
On December 7th, the National Environment Agency (NEA) in Singapore, the Ministry of Environment of Denmark (MOE), the Danish Environmental Protection Agency (DEPA), and the Embassy of Denmark in Singapore, organized an online seminar focusing on Soil Quality Perspectives. More than 25 companies participated in the virtual seminar with a total attendance of 68 professionals.
Download the program here:
During the webinar the chat was buzzing with questions to the speakers. We have summarized all questions and answers below.
To NEA: Does the development project of local environmental quality standards also involve collection of background data throughout the whole of Singapore for baseline/benchmarking? E.g. collection of background concentrations for metals such as arsenic (which may be natural occurring) in order to distinguish between natural background chemicals and anthropogenic contaminants.
Answered by NEA: Yes, we will be collecting borehole data to provide an understanding of the background/baseline soil quality in Singapore. We understand that it is important to know what our background conditions are so that the standards will not become impractical to meet.
To NEA: With regards to determining when site contamination poses unacceptable risks, does the NEA and other relevant government agencies (SLA, etc) accept a site specific assessment of the risks by the land owner/occupier/responsible party following exceedance of the risk-based screening levels. A site specific risk assessment following the risk screening step will ensure the site contamination risk is more realistically quantified taking into considerations things like site geology, types of contaminants driving risk and anticipated end use/future use of the site. Such an approach would be consistent with the 3-tiered risk assessment process recommended by international bodies like ASTM and IFC minimizing unnecessary remediation and better balancing need to protect public health/the environment and SG's land redevelopment needs while optimizing use of finite resources in a more sustainable way.
Answered by NEA: Yes, we will be using a tiered approach to the risk-based assessment that allows for site-specific adjustments of parameters for the site if the screening values are not met.
To NEA: Will the Singapore soil standards take into consideration the agricultural exposure scenario (food chain contamination)?
Answered by NEA: Yes, we will account for exposure to the CoC through the consumption of agricultural produce. However, we do have to also note that in Singapore, our food supply is largely still imported from overseas, and we will have to consider them in our conceptual site model.
To NEA: Singapore has historically applied Dutch Intervention Values which have become less relevant over time. It makes great sense to develop a local Singapore soil and groundwater standard applying a pragmatic approach. Many local factors related to geology, population density, groundwater usage (used in The Netherlands, but not in Singapore) must be taken into account. Creative approaches could complement this development of standards alone, including categorization of land by its existing contaminant type and level, allowing industrial and commercial zones to have higher concentrations, and movement of soil between sites with a similar contaminant profile to avoid brownfield sites to end up in an idle state awaiting clean-up to standards. This could be managed through cadastral notes on the land title. Singapore being a dynamic country where idle land has the potential to stall development, is NEA considering such creative processes as part of this exercise?
Answered by NEA: We recognize that it will be useful to set pragmatic standards that reflect the necessary protection level for a particular type of land use, and will be studying how best to categorize the various land use types in Singapore (noting that we have mixed-use developments and urban farming that do not fit squarely into the traditional models). Nonetheless, a tiered approach to the risk assessment will still allow for a site-specific assessment of the site on a case-by-case basis. A framework on the management of contaminated land will also be studied and developed to support the implementation of the standard.
To NEA: A consideration of possible strategy for Singapore in relation to polluted areas. In Denmark, the legislation is structured in relation to drinking water without treatment. This is not the case in Singapore, where there should be a focus on subdivision into specific areas for cultivation and land use. This can be seen in connection with the recycling of sewage sludge, etc.
Answered by NEA: Noted with thanks on the suggestion. Yes, we do note the differences in how we use our groundwater/surface water for drinking and we will study those scenarios in Singapore's context so that our standards will be applicable for our context.
To NEA: Is the food waste from manufacturers greater than the recycled food? Your slide showed a combined amount of 40% from food manufacturer and hotels/hospitals. How many percent is from food manufacturers alone?
Answered by NEA: We estimate that around 40% of food waste generated in Singapore is from commercial and industrial sources. Unfortunately, we do not have data from the food manufacturers alone. Of the total food waste generated, around 18% is recycled through on-site and off-site treatment methods.
To NEA: How much floor space (in m2) will new large commercial and industrial food waste generators be required to allocate for treatment facilities
Answered by NEA: Based on the Code of Practice on Environmental Health (COPEH), a minimum area/space of 25sqm is to be set aside for the on-site food waste treatment system. You can refer to the website: https://www.nea.gov.sg/corporate-functions/resources/practices-and-guidelines/practices for more information on the COPEH.
To NEA: Which technologies will be allowed and what is the required outcome in terms of water, fertilizer (liquid/solid), and biogas generation. Will a certain quality of end product be required?
Answered by NEA: We have allowed the use of aerobic treatment systems that converts food waste to compost or water. You can refer to our website @ https://www.nea.gov.sg/our-services/waste-management/3r-programmes-and-resources/food-waste-management/food-distribution-organisations-local-recycling-facilities-and-suppliers for the current types of treatment systems.
To NEA: Will existing large commercial and industrial food waste generators also be required to install onsite treatment systems?
Answered by NEA: Existing premises with space constraints will be given the option to send the segregated food waste to an off-site facility for treatment.
To NEA: Can you share more information about the treatment capacity, technology specifications, and required outputs (water, fertilizer, bio-gas) of the aerobic food digesters already installed?
Answered by NEA: The treatment capacity can range from 2.5kg to 1.5tonnes. The source-segregated food waste is usually decomposed by microorganisms (microbes) into compost/liquid nutrient/non-potable water in 24 hours, in the presence of oxygen. There is a list of suppliers for on-site food waste treatment systems listed on the NEA Food Waste Management webpage (https://www.nea.gov.sg/our-services/waste-management/3r-programmes-and-resources/food-waste-management/food-distribution-organisations-local-recycling-facilities-and-suppliers#recyclingfacilities). More information about the systems can be found via the website link provided. The list is non-exhaustive, and inclusion in the list does not constitute endorsement or recommendation by NEA.
To NEA: Who are the expected customers of the end products from local treatment facilities? Is there already an ecosystem/value chain in place?
Answered by NEA with reference to slide 32 of NEA's presentation (download below): It’s a pilot conducted by Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment on household food waste segregation where segregated food waste are collected in food waste caddies provided to the residents and deposited at the food waste bins located at the ground floor of the public housing blocks. The food waste would then be transported to the nearby on-site food waste treatment system at Our Tampines Hub for treatment. The organic fertilizer is then distributed to the residents who participated in the pilot. The pilot has since transited to a community gardening/composting model where the food waste is instead composted at a community garden set up at a nearby rooftop car park.
To NEA: How will the onsite food waste treatment facilities be financed? Are there any schemes in place to offset CAPEX costs?
Answered by NEA: Both the 3R fund and SG Eco Fund are co-funding schemes that are able to support the CAPEX cost of recycling projects. Do note that there are some criteria that the project must fulfil to be eligible for funding. For more information, please refer to: https://www.nea.gov.sg/programmes-grants/grants-and-awards/3r-fund and https://www.sgeco.gov.sg/fund-info.
To MOE/DEPA: I understand that polluters have to remediate contaminated land back to former status for “new” sites, were baseline studies of soil quality done previously for the former status to be known? If so, were the baseline studies prioritized in certain manner?
Answered by Ms Lisa Bizzarro: For “new pollution” the responsible polluter has to remediate to former status. At sites that were polluted beforehand and maybe with a different polluter, the status is that of former pollution.Today there is a demand for the industry that traditionally pollute and have large emissions to make a “baseline-report” (EU-regulation implemented in Danish regulation). The baseline is concerning the status from the time where the baseline-study was made. In the report there will have to be made a list which polluting substances that are handled/emitted at the specific industrial site and which can cause soil contamination if preventive measures fails.
To MOE/DEPA: For the 18,000 sites pending evaluation, were they assessed to be possibly contaminated by the authorities? If so, how does Denmark manage the concerns that the public and the existing users of the land may have pending the completion of the evaluation?
Answered by Ms Lisa Bizzarro: The regional councils have to prioritize the the public action after evaluating how acute the risk seems based on factual knowledge / documented knowledge. E.g. a minor oil-spill might not demand instant action depending on where the spill happened.
Speakers (in order of appearance)
Mr Yong Seng Quek, Senior Engineer, National Environment Agency - "Singapore's Soil Quality Practices and Efforts"
Mr Jason Tan, Executive Engineer, National Environment Agency - "Conversion of Food Waste to Compost"
Ms Lisa Bizzarro, Head of Section, Danish Ministry of Environment - "Introduction to the Danish Regulatory Framework for Contaminated Soil Quality"
Mr Christian Hauschildt, Legal Aid, Danish Environmental Agency - "Soil Quality Quantification & Pollution Remediation in Denmark"
Mr Morten Brøgger Kristensen, Chief Technology Officer, Solum - "Soil Improvement in Denmark"
Get in touch for more information about business opportunities in Singapore:
Mark Edward Perry
Trade Advisor at Royal Danish Embassy Singapore
Phone: +65 9088 5567