The research followed a report regarding the NHS Lothian’s incident management team reporting cases of ill health affecting residents on a recently built local authority housing estate in Gorebridge, Midlothian, a previous mining area. According to the report, 22 residents contacted healthcare services between September 2013 and September 2014 complaining of headaches, dry coughs, dizziness and anxiety. The investigation concluded that the high-levels of carbon dioxide detected in their properties originated from a nearby coal mine. The ground gas was elevated levels of oxidising coal deposits producing carbon dioxide in the abandoned coal mine. Changes in atmospheric pressure and other factors had caused the carbon dioxide to migrate to the surface.
The incident management team’s report outlined recommendations relating to Scottish building regulations and new builds. It advised that mine gas mitigation measures should be mandatory in new residential developments in areas that the Coal Authority designated as former mining areas. Twenty-six of the 32 Scottish local authorities have former mining areas, including most of the Central Belt, which is the most heavily populated area.
The Scottish Government wanted to explore how typical the team’s findings might be if the Scottish building regulations were not modified, and appointed RSK@Stirling to undertake the research project.
RSK@Stirling, recognising the necessary skills in other RSK businesses, drafted in the RSK geosciences division to assist. RSK@Stirling W’s detailed knowledge of coal mining practice, together with RSK geosciences’ expertise in ground gas and how it affects developments, created the perfect team to meet the client’s needs. Input from Building Sciences on ventilation in buildings, and specific expertise on stakeholder engagement from RSK@Stirling, cemented RSK’s strong team.
The team began by reviewing existing literature relating to previous ill-health incidents related to mine gas across Scotland, the UK, Europe, and the US. Stakeholder engagement and consultation with technical experts followed before the findings were analysed and recommendations for further actions made. The finished report, published on 5 September 2019, concludes RSK’s involvement. It includes recommendations for the Scottish Government to consider going forward.
You can read the report in full on the Scottish Government’s website.