92  Contaminated land remediation

The property investor’s attitude to land: "Buy now, they stopped making it long ago" is fairly sound, although not strictly true on a geological timescale.  There is powerful evidence that the global stock of useful land is being depleted by erosion and degraded through misuse of resources.  Further, there is persuasive scientific evidence that suggests climate change will cause inundation of low-lying land by rising sea levels.  These are good reasons for recycling land as well as bottles and tin cans and they are reflected in government planning policy promoting the redevelopment of "brownfield" sites.

The scope for reclamation in Britain is as large as the legacy of several centuries of neglect - thousands of hectares of derelict, contaminated or otherwise unusable sites previously used for gasworks, chemical factories etc.  In many cases, complete removal of pollutants is not possible and remediation is a set of procedures to "make the harm or potential harm caused by such land tolerable", rather than a cure.

Summary of legal controls on contaminated land
A regulatory system to deal with the problems associated with contaminated land was brought into force as Section 57 of the |Environment Act 1995.  Contaminated land is defined as land so polluted by substances in or under it that it could cause significant harm or could cause pollution of controlled waters. 

This requires identification and remediation of land where contamination is causing unacceptable risks to human health or the wider environment.  It deals with sites of concern which would not otherwise come under planning and development, or pollution control, legislation.

The regime is based upon a 'polluter pays' principle: where possible, those responsible for the contamination should meet the costs of remediation in full.  It also encompasses a 'suitable for use' approach:  the land should be remediated to a level suitable for its current use, designated use (eg under planning permission), or intended use, rather than for any future use. Development of remedial actions are on a 'risk-based approach'.

Legal controls on contaminated land are enforced by local authorities in most cases (and by the Environment Agency for any land designated a special site).   There is a duty to inspect and identify contaminated land (defined in section.78);  to inform owners, occupiers and others potentially affected; a duty, in some circumstances, to serve Remediation Notices on those responsible, specifying what needs to be done. Rules apportion costs and describe what happens where the person who caused the contamination cannot be found.  There are fines for not complying with a notice to remediate, which increase for each day if the offence continues after conviction.  In some circumstances the Environment Agency can move in immediately, take the remedial action necessary and recover costs from the offender. Where there is imminent danger of a need to prevent serious water pollution, the authorities may do the remedial work and charge the owners, or put a Charge on the premises.

These pending controls on contaminated land are complex - the above is only an outline of the new rules - and have wide implications, as it is estimated that 0.2 per cent of all land in England is potentially contaminated.  The EU is considering a Directive on civil liability for damage caused by waste (which could cause owners of contaminated sites some headaches!)  Existing contamination is a ‘material consideration’ in planning applications and full Environmental Assessments are needed for certain proposals which might result in future contamination of land.

The Interdepartmental Committee on the Redevelopment of Contaminated Land published a series of guidance notes on ways to deal with problem sites such as old sewage works and scrapyards.  These specify trigger concentrations for pollutants which operate as a first step to determine clean-up criteria.  A range of grants is currently available for the reclamation of contaminated land.

For further information see :


Alphabetical list of organisations

B & M Pipeline Services
Tel 0151 334 0122 Fax 0151 334 5067
Dock Road South, Bromborough, LIVERPOOL, Merseyside L62 4SQ

Installation of landfill gas and leachate extraction schemes, and leachate shafts incorporating settlement facilities.

Bachy Group

Tel 01483 427311 Fax 01483 417021
Foundation Court, Godalming Business Centre, Catteshall Lane, GODALMING, Surrey GU7 1XW

Geotechnic design and building contractor specialising in containment and treatment schemes for contaminated land.

Bactec International Ltd

Tel 01634 296757 Fax 01634 296779
Alpha House V, Laser Quay, Culpeper Close, ROCHESTER, Kent, ME2 4HB

MOD registered explosive ordnance disposal company. Routine work involves electromagnetic surveys and risk analysis of former airfields, firing ranges, land subjected to bombing raids etc. These areas may contain UXBs or other dangers. Nucleus of experienced staff; extra qualified personnel recruited as required. Recent contracts include large-scale mine clearance in Kuwait and Angola including recruitment and training of operators.

British Geotechnical Ltd

Tel 01746 767181 Fax 01746 767084
Faraday Drive, BRIDGNORTH, Shrops WV15 5BA

Geotechnical and contaminated land surveys for prospective development of brownfield sites.

CEBO Envirotek

Tel 01704 832171 Fax 01704 879678
Unit 1, 76 Stephenson's Way, Formby Business Park, FORMBY, Lancs LE37 8EG

Lining and capping of landfill sites using Bentonite enhanced soil.

Celtic Technologies Ltd

Tel 01222 3732311 Fax 01222 645565
Senghenydd Road, CARDIFF, Wales CF2 4AY

In situ ground and groundwater remediation specialists using physical enhancement of naturally occurring bioremediation processes such as oxygen injection into the ground and vacuum extraction of contaminants where possible.

Centre for Research into the Built Environment
Web Site http://fesweb.ntu.ac.uk/cbe/cbe.htm E-mail paul.nathanail@ntu.ac.uk
Tel 0115 948 6004 Fax 0115 948 6510
Nottingham Trent University, NOTTINGHAM NG1 4BU

Based at Nottingham Trent University, CRBE offers research and specialist consultancy on environmental risk assessment, geology, environmental engineering, and waste and soil treatment. Runs MSc in Contaminated Land Management.

Community Composting Network

Tel / Fax 0114 258 0483 or 0114 255 3720 
Email info@communitycompost.org  Website www.communitycompost.org 
67 Alexandra Road, SHEFFIELD S2 3EE
Contact  Nick McAllister (Co-ordinator)

Organisation promoting environmental, social and economic benefits of community composting to government and public, supporting good practice examples.  Provides support, advice, representation and information, including health and safety, throughout UK to not-for-profit, locally accountable community composters working on very diverse projects, and those considering setting up a scheme.  Organises conferences, training courses; provides quarterly newsletter, publications, guidebooks and library.  230 members.  Membership 20 for not-for-profit community groups; 100 for affiliate members including LAs and suppliers within industry.  Also offers consultancy service.  (Updated Nov 2004)

Composting Association
Tel 0870 160 3270  Fax 0870 160 3280
Website www.compost.org.uk  Email membership@compost.org.uk
Avon House, Tithe Barn Road, WELLINGBOROUGH, Northants NN8 1DH
Contact   Tony Breton, Communications Manager

National not for profit membership body researching and promoting sustainable management / aerobic treatment of organic waste (a biodegradable resource containing micro-organisms) - otherwise known as composting.  This may be a way of treating pollutants before they are returned to the environment.  Encourages people to make and use soil- enriching composts.  Collects and spreads information for the trade, and works to set standards.  Provides a united voice in UK, promoting benefits of composting to government and public, but does not answer composting enquiries from non-members. Operates certification schemes for compost and compostable packaging.  700 members from all waste sectors, including large scale composters, local authorities, suppliers, users, academics, individuals and students.  Graduated membership fees.  Members get quarterly Composting News, discounted publications, free information service, use of library, access to directory and members' area on website, reductions for conferences / training workshops.  Visits by arrangement, no visitor parking.  Separate Scottish branch.  (Updated Nov 2004)

Edmund Nuttall Ltd

Tel 01276 63484 Fax 01276 66060
St James House, Knoll Road, CAMBERLEY, Surrey GU15 3XW

Civil engineering solutions for large-scale contaminated land reclamation. Recent works include Prospect Park, a 100 hectare commercial development near Heathrow Airport, a former landfill contaminated with drums of tar, solvents and paint; and a former gasworks on the East Greenwich peninsula site of the Millenium exhibition.

Electrochemical Techniques Ltd

Tel 0161 483 6665 Fax 0161 456 8542
5 Castleton Road, Hazel Grove, STOCKPORT, Cheshire SK7 6LB

Removal and recovery of toxic heavy metals from water-based sources including industrial effluents, acid mine waters and landfill leachate.

ERM Enviroclean

Tel 01865 204994 Fax 01865 204982
Eaton House, Wallbrook Court, North Hinksey Lane, OXFORD OX2 0QS

Assessment and remediation of contaminated land.

Erwood Ltd
Tel / Fax 0208 529 4722    Sales 07050 339988
Email  sales@erwood.com   Website  www.erwood.com            
Winterstoke, Bury Road, Chingford, LONDON E4 7QL
Contact  Robbie Woods

Specialist in bioremediation of land contaminated by oil, using tested microbial cultures ('bugs that eat oil') and products claimed to be environment friendly, biodegradable and cost effective to clean, absorb, treat and dispose of oil, gas, grease or other petrochemical and hydrocarbon contaminants.  Also grease trap build up and graffiti removal.  The process does not take long and eliminates the high cost of excavating, transportation and disposal of contaminated soil.  The government offers financial incentives to use this type of system, see www.inlandrevenue.gov.uk/manuals/bimmanual/BIM60615.htm.  Erwood's website has case studies; and Material Safety Data Sheets giving product ingredients, analysis of why they are safe, and of cost.  (Updated July 2004)

ETI Group Ltd

Tel 01242 233330 Fax 01242 242353
Unit 9, Alstone Lane Industrial Estate, CHELTENHAM, Glos GL51 8HF

Fast, economical sampling and analysis of sites with suspected oil or solvent contamination to five metre depths, using a 'Mini-well' probe to collect gas, soil and liquid samples without unnecessary ground disturbance. Instant analysis is provided by portable VOC monitor, or gas chromatography equipment. The technique is particularly suitable for restricted areas and sensitive sites, and is safe to use on garage forecourts.

Land Restoration Systems (UK) Ltd

Tel 01494 526240 Fax 01494 522074
201 Amersham Road, HIGH WYCOMBE, Bucks HP13 5AJ

Consultancy and contracting services in land restoration. Remediation of contaminated soil and groundwater including bioremediation, soil vapour extraction and other innovative treatment technologies.


Tel 01353 624321 Fax 01353 723456
19 Townsend, Soham, ELY, Cambs CB7 5DD

Lead pellet removal from soil at clay pigeon shooting grounds.


Tel 01924 361816 Fax 01924 363144
The Towers, 28 Bond Street, WAKEFIELD, West Yorks WF1 2QP

Soil and groundwater remediation Capabilites range from physical removal methods to design and implementation of in situ treatments, including innovative treatment technologies.

Montgomery Watson

Tel 01494 526240 Fax 01494 474721
Terriers House, 201 Amersham Road, HIGH WYCOMBE, Bucks HP13 5AJ

Major firm of international consulting engineers for water and the environment. Contaminated land and site remediation; waste water treatment; VOC remediation, including a technique involving the construction of permeable containment walls allowing outflow of treated waste.

Ove Arup and Partners

Tel 0207 465 3394 Fax 0207 465 3510
13 Fitzroy Street, LONDON W1P 6BQ

Specialist groups of this consultancy provide advice on remediation of contaminated land, design of waste disposal facilities, etc.

Peel Fold Holdings Ltd

Tel 01491 572042 Fax 01491 412331

Design and construction of waste facilities. Reclamation of damaged land. ESA member.

Rowe Technology Ltd

Tel 01937 834848 Fax 01937 834848
110 Wighill Lane, TADCASTER, North Yorks LS24 8HE

In situ remediation of contaminated land using special modified clays with minimum disturbance to surrounding areas, enabling foundation casting for new development to be carried out simultaneously. Capability includes treatment for heavy metals and organics. The technology is also claimed to be effective for water treatment and pollution control.

Royal Ordnance Environmental Services
Tel 01296 652103 Fax 01296 652111
Westcott, AYLESBURY, Bucks HP18 0NP

Defence related site remediation and explosive analysis. Operators of thermal soil remediation process.

St Albans Sand & Gravel Co Ltd
Delamare Road, Cheshunt, WALTHAM CROSS, Herts EN8 9SJ
Tel 01992 631991 Fax 01992 631703

Sand and gravel extraction and landfill operator pioneering the UK's first trial of short rotation coppice willow as a landfill leachate management system. Funded through the Landfill Tax Credit Scheme, the company has established several hectares of coppice at two sites. Trials involve leachate spraying of one and two year old plantations over periods of six weeks. Results to date show healthy new growth even at high rates of application. They are expected to be concluded in 2002 with the technique providing a flexible low-cost system producing income from a renewable energy resource.

Subadra Ltd

Tel 01494 765605 Fax 01494 765609
First Floor, 66-70 White Lion Road, AMERSHAM, Bucks HP7 9JS

Investigation and remediation of soil and groundwater contamination.

Telluric Ltd

Tel 01222 766716 Fax 01222 766945
5 Chiltern Close, Cardiff Industrial Park, CARDIFF, South Glamorgan CF4 5DL

Polluted land and groundwater remediation contractors. Capabilities include in situ bioremediation and vacuum extraction, environmental research and development laboratories.

VHE Holdings plc

Tel 01226 715666 Fax 01226 717474
Engine Lane, Shafton, BARNSLEY, South Yorks S72 8SP

Specialist civil engineering contractor. Industrial dismantling; decontamination of soils, sludges and process residues with reuse of materials where feasible. Use of new technologies as well as traditional earthmoving and engineering skills. Construction of new infrastructure; landfill design and build; regeneration of brownfield sites. In associationwith brokers Willis Corroon, the company offers clients a project-specific insurance policy which underwrites the environmental quality of reclaimed land.

Vulcan Geo-Environmental Services Ltd

Tel 01582 792455 Mobile 0958 773710 Fax 01582 794277
54 Stephens Way, REDBOURNE, Herts AL3 7EA

Environmental geologists offering consultancy and contractual services investigating contaminated land, landfill sites and trade effluent. Advise on and supervise clean-ups, ensuring remediation of sites is carried out safely and to highest standards possible. Carry out asbestos surveys in buildings and soil.