Torfaen County Borough Council is charged with a duty to enforce the provisions of the Contaminated Land Regime which came into force in Wales in July 2001 under Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. This regime provides a new regulatory framework for the identification and remediation of historically Contaminated Land throughout the County Borough. Under these new provisions, the Council is required to make assessments of land in its area to decide which sites are, or could be, causing harm to health or pollution to the environment, and ensure it is made safe. This may result in polluters, landowners and other responsible parties being formally required to clean up a site.
What is contaminated land?
There is a legal definition of Contaminated Land, and local authorities must follow the legal rules in checking whether the land is causing a problem.
Contaminated land is defined 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) pollution of controlled waters is being, or is likely to be caused;.."
This means that contamination must be having, or be very likely to have, a detrimental impact on human health or the environment before a site can be determined as contaminated. It is important to realise that a site will not meet the definition of contaminated land just because contaminants are present.
Torfaen Council has published a ' Contaminated Land Inspection Strategy ' for looking at areas of land within the County Borough and its Planning & Public Protection Officers have already started to examine potential problem sites in detail.
What can be done about contaminated land?
If land is found to be statutorily contaminated, it must be restored to a state in which it is ‘suitable for use’. This will be determined by the use to which the land is to be put. For example, more rigorous clean up targets will be required for domestic gardens than for a site that is to be used for industrial development, as the risk of individuals coming into contact with the contamination is likely to be greater. The clean up targets will also consider any risks to the environment, particularly watercourses and groundwater.
What solutions are available to clean up contaminated sites?
A site affected by contamination may require some form of remediation before it can be brought back into use. There are many ways in which this may be achieved and the chosen method will depend on factors such as the type of contamination present, site geology, regulatory requirements and future plans for the site.
Am I liable if I buy or sell land which contains contamination?
If the history of the land that your home or premises is built on is one of industrial use, waste disposal or mining, it is possible (but by no means certain) that ground contamination is present in one form or another. If you have good reason to suspect that the home or business premises you are buying is on land that might be contaminated then you may need specialist advice. Your local Planning & Public Protection Team can help you with this.
How can I find out if land is contaminated?
If you are concerned that you might live on a site that could be contaminated, please contact the Public Health Team on: Tel: 01633 647290 to find out if any information is held about the land. In some cases a charge may be payable for the supply of data. Alternatively, if you are buying a home within the Torfaen area and suspect land contamination, ask your solicitor to investigate who will in turn consult the Council.
For further information about Contaminated Land in Torfaen contact the Public Health Team on: 01633 647290. A copy of the Council’s 'Contaminated Land Inspection Strategy' is available to download here.
Alternatively further information is available on the following websites:
Last Modified: 11/10/2021
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