British Gas `hiding facts of contaminated land'

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The Independent Online
The public is being kept in the dark about land contaminated by gas production, according to Friends of the Earth.

It says British Gas has refused to reveal the location and condition of more than 1,000 sites around the country. And it found that of 68 potentially contaminated sites in London identified by the charity in 1991, 22 had been developed for other uses, including schools and housing, while local authorities were unaware of seven.

This week, the House of Lords is to debate a Bill that would give local councils responsibility for ensuring the clean-up of contaminated land.

"The Government seems prepared to leave the protection of the public from the threat of contaminated land to the mercy of private interests and the disarray of local authorities," said Liana Stupples, FoE pollution campaigner. "If the Bill is passed unamended, the way is effectively clear for companies to off-load the liability for their pollution on to the public."

BBC 2's Money Programme said last night that British Gas had begun to market three sites, all at the former Tottenham and Edmonton gasworks in north London. Enfield council was said to have had difficulty securing full information about the properties from British Gas.

British Gas told the Money Programme: "We believe it would serve the interests of neither site contamination nor regeneration as a whole if British Gas were to publish details of site conditions."

FoE says untreated land typically contains a mixture of toxic chemicals - including cyanide, lead, arsenic and cancer-causing hydrocarbons.

Jack Cunningham, Labour's trade spokesman, last night called for details of the "nature and scale of contamination" to be made publicly available.