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Frequently Asked Questions

What is contaminated land?

Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 was inserted by section 57 of the Environment Act 1995, and was introduced in England on 1 April 2000. The primary legislation is implemented by the Contaminated Land (England) Regulations 2000 and by the Contaminated Land Statutory Guidance (April 2012) published by Defra.

Under Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 the statutory definition of contaminated land is:

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 -

(a) significant harm is being caused or there is a significant possibility of such harm being caused; or

(b) pollution of controlled waters is being, or is likely to be, caused.

For harm to be caused, or there to be a possibility of harm being caused, there are three key factors that must be present:

  • a contaminant must be present in the soil at a concentration that could cause harm to health (e.g. arsenic),
  • a receptor that could be effected by the contamination (e.g. adults or children),
  • a pathway capable of exposing the receptor to the contaminants in the soil (e.g. dust or soil ingestion, growing of vegetables).

When all three factors are present, it is considered that there is a significant pollutant linkage and it is probable that the land will be classed as contaminated land.

The purpose of this legislation is to deal with the historical legacy of land contamination that has arisen from past, largely industrial, activities. It is retrospective, in that certain persons or companies can be held liable for their actions that occurred in the past. The legislation is consistent with the "polluter pays principle" since it places the financial responsibility for dealing with the contamination with the polluter, where they can be found.

What is the aim of Part IIA?

The purpose of this legislation is to deal with the historical legacy of land contamination that has arisen from past, largely industrial, activities. It is retrospective, in that certain persons or companies can be held liable for their actions that occurred in the past. The legislation is consistent with the "polluter pays principle" since it places the financial responsibility for dealing with the contamination with the polluter, where they can be found.

What causes contaminated land?

Contamination of land has primarily arisen as a result of past human activity, for example mining, industrial activities and waste disposal. The revised statutory guidance helps to clarify the position on the natural presence of contaminants (e.g. caused by the underlying geology).

Does Radon gas cause contaminated land?

Part IIA has been extended to include radioactively contaminated land. However, this extension does not apply to radon gas and its short lived decay products. These are only a matter of concern within buildings and for which other policies exist.

More information on radon can be found on the Public Health England website.

How might contaminated land affect me?

People that cause or knowingly permit land to become contaminated, or that own or occupy land that is contaminated can be held responsible for ensuring that the contamination poses no significant risk to human health or the wider environment. These people are termed "appropriate persons". Under the legislation there are two classes of appropriate person:

Class A - those who cause or knowingly permit the contaminants to be in, on or under the land

Class B - the owner or occupier of the land

Where no Class A person can be identified, the Class B person may become liable for remediating the land in question.

How do I know if my land is contaminated?

You may be aware that you own land that, due to historical usage, has the potential to be contaminated. The only definitive way to confirm if your land is contaminated, is to undertake a site investigation to determine the concentrations of contaminants in the soil, or to undertake landfill/ground gas monitoring if the land in question is on, or close to, a former waste disposal site or other source of ground gas.

When you buy a property, your Solicitor will undertake a number of searches in respect of the land or property you are interested in purchasing. Environmental searches will typically highlight if the property or land is on, or within 250m of, a site that is currently thought to be potentially contaminated. There is no national database of potentially contaminated sites. Such searches are only valid at the time that they were performed, and can offer no guarantee that new knowledge will not come to light in respect of a property or area of land. If these searches suggest that the property might be in the vicinity of an area of potentially contaminated land, you should contact Environmental Health for further information.

Who is the enforcing authority for contaminated land?

The District Council has sole responsibility for determining land as contaminated, an entry for which is listed on a Public Register held by the Council. Depending on the nature of the contaminants at the site, we may refer a site of concern to the Environment Agency who will then oversee any site investigation and, where required, remediation.

There are currently no sites on the Public Register for Derbyshire Dales.

What information can the District Council provide me with?

We can tell you if there are any sites in the District that have been determined as contaminated land, under Part IIA. These are held on the Public Register. There are currently no sites on the Public Register for Derbyshire Dales.

We can respond to environmental information enquiries and can make available for viewing a GIS database of sites of potential concern within the District. We can inform you of what the District Council knows of the past use of those sites, why it considers there may be a potential risk to human health or the wider environment and what action it will be taking in the future to further investigate the site. We will not provide any private information that relates to the owners or occupiers of the land in question.

Whilst we have identified over 2500 sites of potential concern, this does not mean large areas of the District are potentially contaminated. These sites cover all possible past activities, from small waste disposal pits on farm land to petrol stations, mills, factories and lead mines.

What are naturally occurring contaminants?

Some areas of the United Kingdom have naturally elevated levels of certain substances in the soil (e.g. metals), which may pose a risk to human health and the environment. These contaminants arise as part of the natural weathering of rock that is present in the ground. Extensive areas of Derbyshire Dales soils have elevated concentrations of naturally occurring lead (Pb). Extensive areas of Northamptonshire have elevated concentrations of naturally occurring arsenic, associated with the Northamptonshire Ironstone that underlies much of the county. Normal levels of contaminants in soil should not be considered to cause land to qualify as contaminated land, unless there is a particular reason to consider otherwise.

What is lead?

Lead (Pb) is a soft, silvery grey metal that melts at 327.5oC. It is highly resistant to corrosion, is soft and malleable and a poor conductor of electricity.

How does lead get into the environment?

Lead may arise in the environment from natural or anthropogenic (man-made) sources. Natural sources include geological weathering and volcanic emissions. Anthropogenic sources include mining and associated activities, lead smelting, refining and recycling. Some of the major uses of lead are in batteries (e.g. lead acid batteries used in vehicles), cables, pipes, pigments, ceramic glazes, solder and on occasion in traditional health remedies.

The main sources of lead in soil in Derbyshire Dales are that arising from mining contamination (e.g. spoil and tailings) and the naturally occurring lead due to the presence of mineral veins within the carboniferous limestone. These sources are considered to be normal.

Where is there most lead in soils in Derbyshire Dales?

Most of the lead veins are located in areas of the District to the north of Cromford. These are areas where there is carboniferous limestone, which has mineral veins within it. There is also a small pocket of naturally occurring lead close to Ashbourne.

Where can I get advice about the effects of lead poisoning?

Public Health England provides general details of the health effects of lead, but this is provided for information purposes only and should not be used for self-diagnosis.

There are no reported instances of human lead poisoning in Derbyshire Dales.

Who is responsible for soil contamination in my garden?

The person that owns or occupies land that is, or may be, contaminated can be held responsible for ensuring that the contamination poses no risk to human health or the wider environment.

If the source of contamination has arisen from a past use of the land, or land in close proximity, Part IIA enables the Council to identify the "appropriate persons" responsible for either the contamination, or introducing a receptor to that contamination.

However, any intervention by the Local Authority for the purposes of remediation of contaminated land must consider the costs involved (including social costs), the harm that is likely to be caused by the contaminants, and whether the adverse effects caused by intervention, for the purposes of remediation, justify the benefits gained.

Can I get my soil tested for lead or other contaminants?

You can have your soil tested for lead by a number of different laboratories in the East Midlands. The District Council is not able to recommend or endorse any particular laboratory. Laboratories can be found online, please find a link to Yell.com. The laboratory should advise you on how to take the sample(s) and what information it will require from you. When collecting a sample to be analysed for metals, it would normally be appropriate to collect in the region of 200g in a plastic "zip-lock" style bag, which can then be posted to the testing laboratory. It is advisable to collect soil, rather than soil and vegetation, and to remove any stones. The District Council is unable to undertake soil testing on behalf of residents.

Should you proceed with testing your own soil, the Council can advise you on the interpretation of these results in light of current UK Government guidance. Any discussions with the District Council concerning the results of private soil testing must be treated as advice only. The Council is unable to categorically state if a concentration of a contaminant will, or will not, pose a risk to human health.

Environmental Health

Town Hall, Bank Road
Matlock, Derbyshire DE4 3NN
01629 761 212
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