Remediation of Contaminated Land


Before remediation of contaminated land is required certain criteria have to be met:-

  • a contaminant has been identified
  • a receptor has been identified (human, ecosystem or property)
  • a pathway from the contaminant to the receptor has been identified
  • and where there is a significant possibility of harm to the receptor  

For example, research suggests that previous land use may have resulted in contamination underneath what is now an industrial site, but the site is covered in concrete as there are buildings on it now. Unless the concrete is going to be broken up and the contaminants exposed, there is no pathway linking the contaminant to a receptor, and so no action is required. However, if the site was going to be demolished and redeveloped into a residential area, it would then be necessary to ensure that the site was remediated to a standard suitable for residential use.

Why are there different levels of Remediation?

Remediation is carried out to make the land suitable for use. The level of remediation required is subject to the end use of the land. For example, land that is going to be used for a residential development which contains houses with gardens (where people have the potential to grow and eat their own vegetables) has to be remediated to a greater extent than if the land were to be used solely for an industrial development.

Who is responsible for the cost of cleaning up the contaminated land?

The local authority will identify an appropriate person and they will be liable for part or all of the cost for remediating the land. There are two classes for appropriate person:-

  • Class A appropriate persons are those who cause or knowingly permit the pollutant(s) to be in, on or under the land
  • Class B appropriate persons are the owner(s) or occupier(s) of the land

Where no Class A appropriate person(s) can be identified, then the Class B appropriate person(s) may become liable. Several appropriate persons may be identified for one site. Detailed guidance on the allocation of such remediation liability, as well as when appropriate persons may be exempt or excluded from having to pay, is contained in the statutory guidance. Where an appropriate person can no longer be found (the person may have died, or their company has gone into liquidation), the enforcing authority may be required to take on the missing person's share of liability, and undertake the remedial works themselves. Any other appropriate persons for that piece of contaminated land will still be required to pay their share of the remediation costs.