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When A Site Is Contaminated

Where there is a pollution linkage found on a site that is causing or threatening significant harm or water pollution, then that site ought to be designated as contaminated land. Once a determination has been made that land is "contaminated land" the local authority is required to inform various people about the determination including:

  • the owner of the land
  • the occupier of the land
  • each person who appears to be an "appropriate person"
  • the Environment Agency

Providing it is possible to trace the appropriate persons - those responsible for the presence of substances on the land - then these parties will be made to clean up. If necessary, a notice (called a remediation notice) will be served on them requiring them to do so. A formal notice is not always necessary, however, as agreement may be reached to clean up the land by voluntary action.

The authorities have to wait for at least three months following the designation of the site before they can serve a remediation notice. During this time consultation and negotiation will take place and will focus on is needed to achieve the remediation of the site and on what particular solutions would eliminate the harm caused by the site.

If it happened that the appropriate parties refused to clean up, then in addition to any criminal proceedings against them, the authorities can clean up the land themselves and take action to recover the costs incurred.

Guidance Documents

DEFRA: Contaminated Land Statutory Guidance (April 2012)

Guides on how to interpret and implement the contaminated land legislation (Part 2A of the Environmental Protection Act 1990). This includes:

  • explaining how local authorities should implement the contaminated land regime, including how to decide whether land is contaminated;
  • elaborating on the goals of remediation, and how regulators should ensure that remediation requirements are reasonable.

DEFRA/CIEH: Local Authority Guide to the Application of Part 2A of the Environmental Protection Act 1990

Part C of the Guidance document provides useful information on determining if land is contaminated.

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