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What is contaminated land?

The legal definition of 'contaminated land' is set out within Part 2A of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 as:

'Any land which appears to the local authority in whose area it is situated to be in such a condition, by reason of substances in, on or under the land, that significant harm is being caused or there is a significant possibility of such harm being caused; or significant pollution of controlled waters is being, or is likely to be caused.'

It is important to note that land that does not fit this legal definition of 'contaminated land' may still be affected by contamination.

Whilst Eden is a very beautiful, rural part of the country, it does still have a legacy of sites which have had a wide range of uses. Some of these uses have left contaminants in the ground which can impact on the quality of the soil. Site practices have changed and improved through the years and many activities which are today considered unacceptable were the normal practice in years gone by.

Some examples of the types of activities that have been carried out within Eden and may have resulted in land contamination are:

  • Landfill sites and areas of filled ground
  • Petrol Stations, road haulage and garage sites
  • Gas Works
  • Mining Sites
  • Dry Cleaners
  • Commercial industries which ran their own fleet of vehicles
  • Railway land
  • Animal and animal products processing works
  • Photographic processing industry
  • Printing and bookbinding works
  • Sewage treatment works
  • Textile works and dye works
  • Timber treatment and products works
  • Waste recycling and treatment sites

Contaminant linkage

In order to assess the risks from contaminated land we have to identify a source of contamination, a receptor, or something that could be affected by the contamination and a pathway or process for the contamination to get to the receptor.

For example, a source of contamination could be an old landfill that now has houses built on top of it, the receptor to any contamination present in the old landfill could be people living in the houses, and the pathways could be through people playing in the gardens and eating homegrown vegetables.

This is called a contaminant linkage. It means that we will consider land to be contaminated only where we have strong scientific evidence that the current use of the land is causing or likely to cause significant health risks to people or significant risks to other specific receptors.

The receptors that we are required to consider are:

  • People
  • Rivers and groundwater
  • Ecological sites
  • Property in the form of crops, produce, livestock
  • Property in the form of buildings, including ancient monuments