Achieving attainable outcomes from good science in an untidy world: case studies in land and air pollution
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- Mahoney, G., Stewart, A.G., Kennedy, N. et al. Environ Geochem Health (2015) 37: 689. doi:10.1007/s10653-015-9717-9
While scientific understanding of environmental issues develops through careful observation, experiment and modelling, the application of such advances in the day to day world is much less clean and tidy. Merseyside in northwest England has an industrial heritage from the earliest days of the industrial revolution. Indeed, the chemical industry was borne here. Land contamination issues are rife, as are problems with air quality. Through the examination of one case study for each topic, the practicalities of applied science are explored. An integrated, multidisciplinary response to pollution needs more than a scientific risk assessment. The needs of the various groups (from public to government) involved in the situations must be considered, as well as wider, relevant contexts (from history to European legislation), before a truly integrated response can be generated. However, no such situation exists in isolation and the introduction of environmental investigations and the exploration of suitable, integrated responses will alter the situation in unexpected ways, which must be considered carefully and incorporated in a rolling fashion to enable solutions to continue to be applicable and relevant to the problem being faced. This integrated approach has been tested over many years in Merseyside and found to be a robust approach to ever-changing problems that are well described by the management term, “wicked problems”.