Homeowner's invisible risk
Contaminated land can endanger health and property values, writes Ian H unter
Sunday 05 February 1995
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.
Bargain Hunter: Getting your hands on these baby goodies is child's play
Problem gambling: Amid heavy advertising and a surge in remote sports betting, more and more 16 to 24-year-olds are now seen as 'at risk'
The HiFX guide to managing corporate foreign exchange and international payments
The Cyprus dream becomes a nightmare
The 10 Best money-saving sites
- 1 Secret Cinema interview: Why were Back to the Future screenings cancelled?
- 2 Christians: The world's most persecuted people
- 3 Israel-Gaza conflict: The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
- 4 Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
- 5 Iraq crisis: End 'very near' for Christianity after Isis takeover, says Bishop
Israel-Gaza conflict: The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Opponents of Israel's military operation in Gaza are the real enemies of Middle Eastern peace
Were 'Poor Doors' added to mixed developments so wealthy residents don't have to go in alongside social housing tenants?
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia
iJobs Money & Business
£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established professional services...
£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: SThree, International Recruitme...
£280 - £300 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Test Analyst, Edinburgh, Credit Ris...
Day In a Page
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000
A six-bedroom farmhouse with five acres of land in a former cloth-making village
A secluded seven-bedroom detached house with large private garden, £490,000
A three-bedroom cottage overlooking Sarratt village green with open fires and solid oak floors
A three-bedroom maisonette flat in a Grade I-listed, Georgian townhouse in a sought-after location
A one-bedroom apartment located within a private gated development, north of Turnham Green
Look forward to a brighter future at two-bedroom Sunny Cottages, ideal for Londoners looking to downsize
A three-bedroom red-brick cottage with outbuildings and pretty gardens, £200,000
This three-bedroom flat within a former textile factory spans the corner of the fourth floor and has a balcony
A charming four-bedroom Oxfordshire cottage with oak floors and chunky-beamed ceilings, £465,000
A beautiful one-bed flat in a sought-after portered block, with access to Norland Square communal gardens
A one-bedroom flat within a Sixties school conversion with high-spec design and open-plan kitchen, close to Lambeth North Tube, £435,000
A 17th century four-bedroom house, with open fireplaces, cellar and pool, £600,000
A three-bedroom, coach house with luxury open-plan living space and contemporary breakfast bar