Frequently asked questions about contaminated land

What causes contamination in the ground and why should we clean it up?

Contamination (pollution) of land can arise as a result of past poorly regulated industrial and waste disposal activities carried out with little regard for the environment as well as illegal dumping and accidental spillage of substances. In some instances contamination may be natural rather than man-made. Some of the more common contaminants include oils and fuels, domestic and industrial waste, heavy metals and solvents. Where contamination is found to be significant, it needs to be cleaned up to minimise the harm it could cause of people and the environment in general.

What work are we doing under the new legislation part 2A, Environmental Protection Act 1990?

The new legislation requires the council to proactively identify contaminated sites that are not suitable for their current use. The land quality team carries out these statutory duties. If necessary, we have enforcement powers to get the sites cleaned up. This runs along side the council's planning and building control consultation duties, which are undertaken to ensure redevelopment of a site does not lead to the site being identified as contaminated land.

What is the legal definition of 'contaminated land'?

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 was amended by the Environment Act 1995 to introduce a legal definition of 'contaminated land' for the first time. Section 78A of the act states that: 'contaminated land' is 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 pollution of controlled waters is being, or is likely to be, caused. Due to recent amendments where contamination is due to radioactivity, harm or significant possibility of harm is limited to human receptors only at present.

Will all polluted sites be legally determined by the council to be 'contaminated land'?

No. For the council to legally determine a site as 'contaminated land' all of the following must apply:

  • There must be one or more contaminating substance present in a significant quantity (called the source)
  • There must be one or more specified receptors present (these can be people, animals, plants, rivers, underground water resources or buildings)
  • There must be at least one plausible pathway by which contaminant can reach the receptor such as skin contact or inhalation of vapours (forming a Pollutant Linkage), and
  • There must be a significant possibility that the Pollutant Linkage could lead to significant harm to one or more receptors

Does part 2A contaminated land legislation apply to me?

The contaminated land regime has implications for those who have caused or knowingly permitted land to be contaminated or who own, occupy or intend to purchase or sell land that is contaminated.

Is brownfield land 'contaminated land'?

Not necessarily. Brownfield is a term often used to describe previously developed land. Most land that has been previously developed for industrial purposes will have some contamination on it, but not all will meet the definition of contaminated land under part 2A.

How could 'contaminated land' investigations affect me?

You may be affected by investigations if you own land, occupy land, are a tenant of land or operate a process on land that the council has reasons to believe may be contaminated. The council will have already carried out some preliminary investigation work to determine the likelihood of contamination at the site and will inform all those who may be potentially affected by inspections, intrusive investigations and possible remedial works well in advance of them taking place.

How long does it take to determine if land is contaminated and carry out any necessary remedial (clean up) works?

It is difficult to predict how long it will take to determine a site and to carry out any remedial works as this is likely to vary from site to site. Based on a number of sites that have been investigated throughout the country, time scales have varied from approximately one to five years, with some sites being investigated over longer periods before a decision is reached on whether or not it requires remediation (clean up).

Who pays for the clean up of 'contaminated land'?

In the case where remedial works (clean up) are needed to prevent harm due to unacceptable risks certain parties may have to meet these costs. These parties include the original polluter of the land where they can be found, or the current owner or occupier of the land. Exclusion tests and other considerations may apply, in such cases the council will pay for some or all of the clean up.

I think my site may be contaminated, what can I do?

You should contact the land quality team (which falls within the Environmental Protection directorate), who will consider if the land is causing an immediate risk to receptors and if the problem can be dealt with under a regime other than part 2A. In the case of a brownfield site (previously developed land), if you are the landowner you may wish to get specialist advice on the investigation and clean up of the land from private consultants and carry out voluntary remediation of the site under the planning regime.

How many 'contaminated land' sites have been identified in Salford under the part 2A legislation?

To date there are currently no formally determined 'contaminated land' sites within Salford.

How can I find out if my home or the home I am buying is on 'contaminated land'?

Your solicitor can conduct an environmental search on your behalf consulting various agencies including the local authority about information on the land in question. You could use one of the private commercially available search companies to carry out the work for you.

What do I need from a developer if I am buying a new house on a development, which has had contaminated land conditions attached as part of its planning approval?

A 'remediation certificate' produced by the consultant or expert on behalf of the developer stating how the site has been remediated to a 'suitable for use' standard. Where this is not available, copies of the remediation reports from the developer.

Who is responsible if things go wrong due to contamination?

Under the planning regime, it is the responsibility of the developer to ensure that a development is safe and 'suitable for use' for the purpose for which it is intended. The council does not accept liability.

This page was last updated on 23 March 2016

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