Contaminated land is land that has substances (on, under or within its surface) that may pose a risk of significant harm to human health or to the wider environment (including water resources, the local ecosystem and built structures).
Many former industrial sites in Oldham have been redeveloped for residential use. In some cases, the fact that the land may have been contaminated wasn’t considered at the time of redevelopment and the land may still be contaminated.
Dealing with contaminated land
Contaminated land is dealt with in two ways:
Planning and development control process
The planning and development control process includes an investigation by the Contaminated Land Team of any sites that are being redeveloped. A clean-up is done (where necessary) to eliminate risk of harm from substances left in soil.
Proactive site investigation
The Council tries to identify sites where previous uses may have left contamination in the soils or groundwaters and which may now pose a significant risk to the health of people or to the natural built environment.
Find out if your house is on contaminated land
The Environmental Health Team can help you access information about sources of contamination, including:
- Historic industrial land uses
- Closed landfill sites
- Locations of scrap yards, petrol stations etc.
- Reports on the investigation and remediation of contaminated sites
Site inspections by the Council are completed according to an inspection timetable.
Sites will not be inspected out-of-turn unless they are 'urgent' (this means the site appears to present an immediate risk of serious pollution or harm to human health).
You can use an independent agency to inspect the land, but regardless of the findings the Council will only determine the status of a site after completing its own investigations (and there may be re-inspections)
The Council cannot guarantee that a site will never be classified as contaminated because, for example, additional information may be discovered, or environmental legislation may change.
You can request that the Council provides a written response to enquiries about land contamination and proximity to closed landfill sites (there is a charge for this service).
A number of European initiatives have been established to share information on different ways of dealing with contaminated land.
In one example, Oldham Borough Council, West Sussex County Council and Belfast City Council are working with partners across Europe on a European Union funded project under SUFALNET.
The project is developing policy and sharing ideas looking at the various contamination, remediation and land use planning regimes of its member states. This is with the intention to challenge the negative image of former landfill sites and examine how they can be returned to meaningful use.
SUFALNET website - Sustainable use of abandoned landfills
The Health Protection Agency (HPA) manages a national programme of work to identify premises with high radon levels.
Radon is a naturally occurring, radioactive gas that has no smell, taste or colour. It comes from tiny amounts of uranium in all rocks and soils, from where it can seep into buildings and collect in rooms.
As part of this programme Oldham was contacted by the HPA and asked to undertake a sampling exercise during Winter 2009/10 focussing on some of Oldham’s schools.
Should high levels of gas be found, simple and effective action can be taken to reduce radon levels.
Radon is the most common source of exposure to radiation in Britain, easily exceeding exposure from nuclear power stations or hospital scans and X-rays
For more information about radon visit http://www.ukradon.org/
You can also telephone the Health Protection Agency on 0123 582 2622 during officer hours, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.