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; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

Suggested Topics
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Recruitment Genius: Collections Agent

    £14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company was established in...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

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

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 ...

    Reach Volunteering: Trustees with Finance, Fundraising and IT skills

    Voluntary and unpaid, reasonable expenses reimbursable: Reach Volunteering: St...

    Day In a Page

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent