Hazmat & Contaminated Land

Hazardous materials can be present in many forms. Building on our asbestos survey expertise developed over more than two decades, we offer Hazmat surveys where we look for hazardous materials on site.

These may include chemical hazards such as oils and solvents, acids, contaminated water and heavy metals such as lead, mercury and cadmium. We also look for biological hazards such as contamination from vermin including foul faeces, the vermin themselves including rodents, insects including cockroaches, maggots and mites or ticks to name but a few.

Our water experts check water systems including pools, showers, taps and tanks for waterborne contaminants including such nasties as Legionella pneumophila, Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus. We also look for airborne contaminants including dusts and fibres and using our surveying expertise, check for anthrax in old horsehair-containing plaster. We can also check for low level radiation.   

Our team of qualified experts have more than 50 years of experience in dealing with contaminated land and have worked throughout the UK as well as Europe and the Middle East. They are fully conversant with the Environmental Protection Act 1990: Part 2A Contaminated Land Statutory Guidance.

The legal framework for the identification and remediation of contaminated land is given in Part 2A. This covers land that has been contaminated in the past and now poses risks to human health or the greater environment.

How does land become contaminated?

One of the questions we are often asked is ‘how does land get contaminated?’ One of our senior consultants, who is also a university lecturer gives a historical perspective below:

During the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Britain experienced a radical change in all aspects of life, as a result of the Industrial Revolution. For example, Scottish engineer John McAdam introduced the macadam system of road surfacing helping to revolutionise road transport. At the same time James Hargreaves' Spinning Jenny and later Richard Arkwright's Water Frame revolutionised textile production as a result of which output increased 15-fold in the century 1815‒1914.

As the need for products began to rise, Abraham Darby smelted iron using coke while Henry Cort's puddling process made wrought iron and Henry Bessemer's Bessemer converter and the Gilchrist-Thomas process made steel in volumes previously thought impossible. Huge ironworks sprang up and the production of 'pig' iron increased 30-fold in the century 1815‒1914.

At the same time better coal mining techniques allowed deeper mines to provide ever more fuel for the power-hungry processes. By 1914 there were 3,000 collieries in the UK and the production of coal increased 20-fold in the century 1815‒1914.

In around 1712 the first commercially successful steam engine was built by Thomas Newcomen and James Watt then made steam engines much more efficient in the 1760s and 1770s giving huge savings on fuel. His other improvements meant steam engines could replace water and horse power in a wide variety of industries, which in turn allowed factories to be built anywhere. Shortly afterward steam trains were developed allowing rapid and reliable transport across the country.

An unfortunate by-product of the Industrial Revolution, the United Kingdom now has a considerable legacy of historical land contamination involving a very wide range of substances. On all land there are background levels of substances, including substances that are naturally present as a result of the natural varied and complex geology and substances resulting from diffuse human pollution. On some land there are greater concentrations of contaminants, often associated with industrial use and waste disposal.

In a minority of cases there may be sufficient risk to health or the environment for such land to be considered contaminated land.

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