Dealing with contaminated land

When preparing a site for construction, you must make preparations when discovering contaminated land. Such findings can potentially severely delay or even ruin a project.

After finding contamination, thorough research and lots of work needs undertaking before laying any foundations.

Contaminated land contains substances in or under the land that are hazardous or potentially hazardous to health or the environment.

There is often a legacy of contaminates on sites used for mining and industry. Chemical spills, oil spills or waste disposal will be taking their toll on the land.

The geology of an area through agricultural use can also have a bearing on a land’s safety. Local authorities must investigate potentially contaminated sites and, where necessary, arrange remediation.
This can be a lengthy process and all local authorities operate at different timescales, resources and staffing capacity.

Examples of contaminated land

There are many examples of contamination, including:

  • Asbestos from a derelict building. This would affect residents or businesses nearby through airborne exposure.
  • Oil spillage travelling through a drainage system to a nearby river.
  • Chemicals in leaking drums travelling down the soil into an underground water supply.
  • Air emissions from a factory being carried by the wind to a nearby nature reserve.

In order to assess the risks from contaminated land, a source of contamination needs identifying.

Once this has been done and scientific evidence is produced, receptors – those affected by the contamination – are identified.

These might include people, rivers and groundwater, ecological sites, property in the form of crops, produce and livestock and property in the form of buildings including ancient monuments.

Clearing land

After determining the land is contaminated, the local authority needs to inform various people it. This includes the land owner, the land occupier and the Environment Agency. Any other parties involved will also be notified.

Providing it is possible to trace those responsible for the presence of substances on the land, local authorities request clearing of the site.

If necessary, a notice (called a remediation notice) is served on them requiring them to do so. A formal notice is not always necessary, however, because an agreement may be reached to clean up the land by voluntary action.

You can find government guidance on managing the risks on their website.

If you discover contaminated land, then you can contact us today to speak to our experts. We can help you with our land remediation services as well as expertise in dealing with spills, asbestos and water contamination.

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