Homeowner's invisible risk

Contaminated land can endanger health and property values, writes Ian H unter

PAT and Rhonda Warren have spent most of the past year living dangerously - but not through choice. The couple's house extension in Colchester is set on top of a cache of chloroaniline, a poisonous chemical used as both herbicide and pesticide.

Mrs Warren said: "We had the extension built so that my husband's mother could live in it. Shortly after she moved in, we noticed a nasty smell coming from the floor. We had tests done, and eventually we were told it was contaminated."

Mr Warren's 80-year-old mother was eventually taken ill and is now in a nursing home.

Although tests are continuing, it is not known how the chemical, which is recognised as a serious health hazard, got there. The land, part of the town's Cherry Tree estate, was previously owned by the Ministry of Defence. However, the MoD strongly deniesthat it ever used contaminants or dumped them on the site.

The Warrens' problem is not unique. According to the Department of Environment, there may be up to 100,000 contaminated sites in Britain, the majority in or near urban areas. The most common contaminants are lead, mercury and cadmium.

The Environmental Protection Act places a duty on the Waste Regulation Authority to inspect contaminated land and, if necessary, order the owner to pay for cleaning up the site. However, this is unlikely to happen in the Warrens' case.

Equally worrying is the effect that site contamination can have on a property's value. Normal conveyancing land searches do not reveal whether land is contaminated or not, although detailed records are kept of sites under which coal-mining took place.

The London-based ICC Site Search provides a contamination report on any site in the United Kingdom. It uses historical and ordnance survey maps to establish a site's former use.

Checks can also be carried out with relevant regulatory agencies, such as the National Rivers Authority and HM Inspectorate of Pollution.

Site Search's findings do not state whether the site is actually contaminated, only whether potential contaminants were used on it.

Once the report has been produced, a detailed inspection of the site may be necessary. Site Search promises to provide the initial report within 10 working days, for a cost of £259 plus VAT.

All this is now academic for Mrs Warren. In November, she and her husband were forced to move out of their Colchester home and into temporary accommodation, where they remain.

Mrs Warren said: "We have been left in limbo. They have been carrying out tests for most of the past year, but no-one has been able to tell us what caused it. The worse thing for us is not knowing what is going to happen.

"All we can tell is that the problem is confined to the extension for the moment. But if you can't live in one part of the house, then the whole house is affected anyway," she said.

o Site Search can be contacted at: 16-26 Banner Street, London EC1Y 8QE. Tel: 071-253 0699.

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

Suggested Topics
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
News
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
tech
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Trainee / Experienced Recruitment Consultants

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 ...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Soho

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40000: SThree: As a Recruitment Consultant, y...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

    Quantitative Risk Manager

    Up to £80000: Saxton Leigh: My client, a large commodities broker, is looking ...

    Day In a Page

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits