Contaminated Soil – what it is, why it matters and how to fix it

Contaminated soil is where a contaminant such as an oil, asbestos or a heavy metal (e.g lead) is found within the soil, usually identified through specialist laboratory analysis.

Land is legally defined as contaminated if the level of contaminants within the ground poses a risk to people, property or the environment, or could cause further pollution to adjacent sites and surface and /or ground water. This ‘risk’ is identified through specialist assessment of the land undertaken by a qualified environmental professional. 

What causes it?

There are multiple causes. The UK has a rich industrial heritage which has brought with it many ways to contaminate land and groundwater. Mining, Manufacturing, Energy storage and generation all create unwanted by-products and pollution and these pollutants are potential sources of contamination that are often poorly understood and managed in-effectively by the polluters. This unfortunately has led to the contamination of a small but significant proportion of the UK’s land. 

Widespread use of hazardous materials in the construction process for a large part of the twentieth century coupled with poor demolition practises have also contributed significantly to the amount of contaminated sites.

Other sources of ground contamination include improper waste disposal and widespread use of pesticides and other chemicals by farmers to kill pests and protect their crops. 

Why does contamination matter?

Contaminated land has the potential to significantly impact human health and can also damage the environment and ecosystems.  

What’s more, if you are a landowner or developer, it could mean you will be refused planning permission for your site and construction works may not be able to proceed until the risk of contamination has been assessed and mitigated (remediated). 

How can I tell if my land is contaminated?

If you suspect your land is contaminated, the first thing you should do is contact your local authority. If you’re not sure which body is responsible for the area in which your land sits, you can find out via the Gov.UK directory

Every local council is duty bound by the Environmental Protection Act to identify all contaminated sites in their area and take steps to remove or reduce the risk they pose to people and the environment.  

How can I fix it?

If you own contaminated land or intend to develop it then you may be liable for the cost of the site’s remediation. While the principle under environmental law is that the polluter pays, if the contamination happened over ten years ago, it may not be possible to identify the polluter and the responsibility then passes on to the current owner.

Your local authority should advise you on the steps you need to take in order to be able to proceed with any development of the site and then the next action to take is to find a remediation specialist to support the next stages of the project.

At Jackson Remediation, we can help at every stage of the project lifecycle, providing a critical eye to the suitability of environmental assessments and assisting with or developing remediation proposals.

These early stages of a construction project on a contaminated site are essential and by setting the correct course through this early phase we ensure the remediation objectives are achievable and the scope for value engineering opportunities are maximised. This means you can commence the site development swiftly and with the EA and local authority approval.

Jackson Remediation is also hugely experienced in the physical delivery of remediation works with a robust process of regular workshops, KPI assessment and client reporting to ensure that we carefully control the progress of works we deliver for the project right through to regulatory sign off of the Remediation works. 

Contaminated land is a hurdle we can help you overcome.