Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Source apportionment of industrial fugitive dusts: Case studies with the Environment Agency

Fowler, Mike; Datson, Hugh; Williams, Ben; Bruce, John


Mike Fowler

Hugh Datson

Ben Williams
Research Fellow in Air Quality Management Resource Centre

John Bruce


Robert D Morrison

Gwen O'Sullivan


Fugitive dust from industrial activities is a long-standing and intractable problem. Quarrying and mining, construction and demolition, landfill, waste transfer and reprocessing, bulk materials handling (especially at ports, docks and harbours), and arable farming are obvious examples where dust is inevitably produced. The impacts of dust emissions from such activities are broadly recognised but, especially within crowded urban and suburban areas where industry and residential areas are often juxtaposed, there may be many potential dust sources within and beyond any given locality. Consideration of potential fugitive dust impacts from planned industrial sites is a frequent part of environmental and social impact assessment, and subsequent monitoring of dust emissions a necessary test enforced by legislation and/or best practice guidance. Rarely, but in such cases significantly, disputes may arise about the causes and consequences of dust impacts. These can become good examples for environmental forensics, requiring the constraint of source - pathway - receptor with sufficient robust evidence for responsibilities to be established and decisions to be made. Recent developments in passive (unpowered) dust monitoring utilising ‘sticky pad’ samplers (Datson et al., 2011; 2012) have facilitated the monitoring of dust in flux on the pathway between source and receptor, and in deposition at the receptor. When combined with established procedures for elemental analysis (Fowler et al., 2010), source attribution studies become possible. This contribution describes two examples of such work which have been undertaken on behalf of the UK Environment Agency (EA), one related to hazardous waste disposal at a rural landfill site, the other to varied industrial activity in an urban setting. Both studies follow the same overall rationale and use DustScan® monitoring equipment and methods. Briefly, after careful consideration of site circumstances and potential dust sources, directional and/or deposited dust gauges are located between the site and potential receptor(s), and at ‘proxy’ receptor locations. Where possible, an upwind location is included, to help establish the local background dust abundance and character. Guided by the directional dust monitoring data (dust abundance by direction as AAC (absolute area coverage) and/or EAC (effective area coverage)), sub-samples are excised from “arcs of interest” on the sticky pads – each representing the direction that connects source and receptor, to a 15˚ resolution. Sub-samples are also taken from sticky pads used to capture dust in deposition, according to an appropriate and similar logic. These are then subjected to a range of laboratory analyses depending on purpose (and finance), ranging from light and scanning electron microscopy, gravimetry and granulometry, to elemental analysis by ICPAES or ICP-MS. Elemental data form the basis of source attribution, either by judgemental establishment of dust differences based on knowledge of potential source(s), or - if the data set is appropriate - by multivariate statistics and/or chemical mass balance procedures. The first case study (hazardous waste landfill) was commissioned as part of the planning application process for renewal of the site licence. It demonstrates that with sufficient prior knowledge and comparatively simple site circumstances, it is possible to make confident apportionment conclusions based on relatively few samples. The second study reflects work in progress at a more complex site involving several industrial processes, including waste transfer, metals recycling, roadstone coating and waste incineration. It shows that, again with a modest number of samples, sensible constraints can be placed on the potential origin of fugitive dusts and their dispersal into the local environment.

Publication Date Jan 9, 2014
Journal Environmental forensics: proceedings of the 2013 INEF Conference
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Pages 146-157
Book Title Environmental Forensics : Proceedings of the 2013 INEF Conference
ISBN 9781849739443
APA6 Citation Fowler, M., Datson, H., Williams, B., & Bruce, J. (2014). Source apportionment of industrial fugitive dusts: Case studies with the Environment Agency. In R. D. Morrison, & G. O'Sullivan (Eds.), Environmental Forensics : Proceedings of the 2013 INEF Conference, 146-157. Royal Society of Chemistry.
Keywords source apportionment, dust, environment agency, environmental forensics, geochemistry
Publisher URL