Contaminated land

Key questions

What is Contaminated Land?

Contaminated Land is defined in Part 2A of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (referred to as the Part 2A regime) as:

"any 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) significant pollution of controlled waters is being caused or there is a significant possibility of such pollution being caused.

In order for a site to be determined as "Contaminated Land" under the Part 2A legislation, a significant "pollutant linkage" must exist. A pollutant linkage consists of a pollutant (the contaminant), a pathway (the route for the contaminant to move along) and a receptor (person, property, etc).  All three must be linked (and the definition above must be fulfilled) in order for a site to be determined as Contaminated Land.

In practice, most sites with a previous potentially contaminating history are remediated to a condition suitable for use under the planning regime rather than the Part 2A legislation.

Is there any Contaminated Land in Chichester?

Currently there are no formally determined Contaminated Land sites on the Chichester District Contaminated Land Register.

How does the District Council deal with land contamination?

There are two methods that we use to deal with land contamination:

  • Through the contaminated land inspection process (this is one of our statutory duties);
  • Through the planning process (enables brownfield sites to be brought back into beneficial use).

The majority of potentially contaminated land sites are remediated as part of the planning process (i.e. during redevelopment activities).

The council's priorities are to:

  • Protect human health
  • Protect controlled waters
  • Protect ecosystems
  • Prevent damage to property
  • Prevent any further land contamination
  • Encourage voluntary remediation
  • Encourage the re-use of land considered to be brownfield or contaminated.

For more information, please see the Inspection Strategy for Contaminated Land

Inspection strategy

Why write an Inspection Strategy?

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 Part 2A introduced new duties to local authorities.  It required they publish an inspection strategy for their district, keep a register of 'Contaminated Land' and inspect their area in a rational and ordered fashion for the purpose of identifying Contaminated Land.

What is the Inspection Strategy?

We have produced an Inspection Strategy detailing how we will inspect and deal with land that may have become contaminated by a previous / historical use.

What does it tell me?

The Strategy lists the aims, our priorities and the approach to inspections and site walkovers, prioritisations and risk assessments.

There is an outline of the inspection and enforcement procedures which detail what happens when contamination is found. This also outlines who may be liable, procedures for cost recovery and the remediation that may take place.

What are the Council's main duties?

Our main duties and objectives defined in law and included in the Strategy are:

  • To cause its area to be inspected for Contaminated Land
  • To determine whether any particular site meets the statutory definition of Contaminated Land
  • To act as the enforcing authority for all Contaminated Land, unless a site meets the definition of a "Special Site", in which case the Environment Agency will act as the enforcing authority.

Environment Agency role

Where contaminated land has the potential to infiltrate a watercourse or water source, the Environment Agency should be contacted. The Environment Agency (EA) will take control under Part 2A of the Environment Protection Act 1990 where we have determined a site to be "special".

Certain remediation activities may also require an environmental permit, or discharge consent for disposal of potentially contaminated water for which the Environment Agency is responsible.

At the national level, the EA also carries out technical research and publishes scientific and technical advice relevant to land contamination, notably including the Contaminated Land Exposure Assessment (CLEA) framework (for the protection of Human Health), publishing of Soil Guideline Values (SGV), and producing controlled waters risk assessment methodologies.

Pollution incidents

What is a pollution incident?

A pollution incident is the accidental or deliberate release of contaminants such as oils, fuels and chemicals that can be harmful to human health and the environment.

What should I do if an incident occurs?

This depends on what type of incident has occurred:

  • If the incident if likely to affect rivers, lakes or groundwater then the  Environment Agency  (EA) should be contacted.
  • If the incident is likely to result in land contamination then contact the Environmental Management team at the council.

Environmental Damage Regulations (EDR) 2009

The EDR implement the European directive on Environmental Liability. They are based on the "polluter pays principle", so those responsible prevent and remedy environmental damage, rather than the taxpayer paying for it. Environmental damage has a specific meaning in the regulations covering only the most serious cases

Waste disposal

Pre 1974, there was no national governing body to regulate the disposal of wastes. There are limited records of what was disposed and where it was put. The Control of Pollution Act 1974 stated that:

a) "Except in prescribed cases, a person shall not -

deposit controlled waste on any land or cause or knowingly permit controlled waste to be deposited on any land; or

b) use any plant or equipment, or cause or knowingly permit any plant or equipment to be used, for the purpose of disposing of controlled waste or of dealing in a prescribed manner with controlled waste"...

The Environment Agency holds a variety of information and guidance on waste disposal including advice on what can be disposed of and where it can be taken. It also issues licences for land filling and waste storage. Please see offsite links to access the Environment Agency website

All collectors and carriers of wastes must now be licensed by the Environment Agency (Environment Act 1990).

Contaminated Land Searches and Environmental Information Requests (EIR)

What is an EIR?

If asked to process an EIR for a piece of land, we carry out an in-depth check of our computer mapping systems (GIS) and produce a response in the form of a letter detailing all the information we have access to relating to the particular site.

Why would I want to carry out an EIR?

There are many reasons for submitting an EIR. You may be interested in the history of the land surrounding your property. The majority of requests we receive come from developers and prospective buyers who wish to see if there could be any past land uses that could have affected ground conditions at a site.

What do I need to provide to make a request?

You can make your request by completing the EIR request form which includes the correct address and postcode and preferably in addition, a basic map detailing the site and area of interest. Please include a brief statement requesting the specific data required.

Where does the information that the council provides come from?

The information has come from a variety of sources. We obtained some data from Government Agencies such as the Environment Agency, Health Protection Agency, and West Sussex County Council. We also purchased data from third party suppliers such as the British Geological Survey, Landmark, Natural England (among others). We also have access to data collected from historic and current council records.

How much will it cost me?

The current charge for  provision of this information is £35.00 + VAT for 2017 (unless the query is very complex in which case it may be more). The response will be completed within 20 working days and generally we are able to respond within a few working days.

How long will I wait for my response?

Once the council has received payment for a request, you will receive a response within 20 working days.

Planning

How does contaminated land relate to planning?

Contaminated land is a material consideration in determining planning applications. The Environmental Management contaminated land team is consulted on all planning applications where there is a possibility that land contamination could be present.

Examples of land uses that may have caused contamination include petrol stations and garages, mineral extraction plants (sand and gravel works), kilns, factories, known or suspected landfill sites or fuel storage facilities.

It is important for us to be consulted as if left un-investigated, such sites could pose a threat to human health if development is permitted without appropriate controls in place.

What will happen if we find or suspect land could be contaminated?

As part of the planning process we will check our GIS records and if they indicate there is potential for land contamination, we will recommend to the planning team that conditions or informative responses are applied to the planning permission.

What do the conditions require an applicant to do?

The initial requirement is generally a desktop study submitted by the applicant that has been carried out by a competent person. This study will highlight major issues that may impact on the proposed development site and suggest recommendations for intrusive site investigation and/or remediation as necessary.

The Informative advises the applicant that there may be contamination present on or near the application site. The applicant is responsible for the safe and suitable development of the land.

If during any stage of the development contamination is discovered that was not highlighted through the desktop study or investigation, then all work should cease and the Local Planning Authority contacted for further guidance.

Who do I get to carry out the desktop study / site investigation?

The council cannot recommend any consultancies to carry out work. We do have a list of local consultants from whom we receive reports. If you would like a copy of the list then please contact the contaminated land team in Environmental Management.

Who do I submit the reports to?

The reports should be sent to the Local Planning Authority with a copy sent to the contaminated land team in Environmental Management.

Oil storage

Up to 20,000 properties in the Chichester District are not on a mains gas supply and have their fuel needs provided by oil storage tanks. Although leaks are not a common occurrence, they have been known to cost well over a hundred thousand pounds to clean up when they do occur and can reach sums of over a million pounds if the oil enters an underground watercourse. On entering a watercourse, oil can spread and contaminate a large area in a short space of time so it is important to resolve issues as soon as possible, or prevent leaks from happening.

Around 75% of the District's drinking water is supplied from groundwater sources so protection of this resource is of great importance.

No matter how large or small the leak / spill is, it will still have a negative effect on the environment. Around 64% of spills and leaks occur from the tank or associated pipe work and on average (2002-05 data) there were 180 incidents a year in the south east ranging from minor spills to major leaks and contamination.

Preventative Advice

  • Get advice from the Oil Firing Technical Association (OFTEC) about the best site location for your tank.
  • Your tank should be at least 10m from a pond or ditch and at least 50m if possible from a borehole or spring.
  • Check your tank on a regular basis and look for corrosion, bulging, damage, interference and discuss any signs of leaks with an OFTEC registered technician.
  • Supervise all deliveries and allow easy access to and around the tank.
  • Ensure the stop tap is working and place a bucket underneath it to catch any small drops.
  • Know where pipes lie underground so that damage to them can be prevented.
  • Protect your tank with a bund or make sure any new tank is integrally bunded.
  • Never leave sight gauge valves open.
  • Get your tank serviced at least once a year by an OFTEC registered technician.
  • Keep a bucket of sand close by to absorb spills.

What if there is a spill / leak?

  • Stop the flow at the source by turning off the tap and/or stop the tanker from dispensing fuel.
  • Call the Environment agency's free 24-hr emergency pollution hotline on 0800 807 060.
  • Prevent oil entering a watercourse by mopping up with sand.
  • Never use detergents or try to wash away the oil with a hose as this makes it worse.
  • Contact your fuel supplier to arrange for any remaining fuel likely to leak out to be removed.
  • Contact your insurance company to advise them a leak has occurred and to make a claim for the cost of repair and clean up.