Motherwell couple launch legal action over homes built on 'toxic land'


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The Independent Online

A couple who claim their home was built on toxic land launched a legal battle against their housing association yesterday.

Angela and Robert McManus’s test case, if successful, could lead to similar action from 42 other families living on an estate in Motherwell which they insist was not properly decontaminated after heavy industrial use, including the processing of toxic metals and chemicals as well as potentially radioactive waste.

The residents say they have suffered from repeated health complaints such as headaches and vomiting and fear exposure to these chemicals also increases the risk of cancer.

Yesterday the couple launched legal proceedings against Lanarkshire Housing Association (LHA) at the Scottish Court of Session in Edinburgh.

Mrs McManus, 41, who has endured from headaches, nausea, weakness to the left side of her body and mood alteration for years, has been forced to find accommodation elsewhere after fears that the couple’s three-year-old daughter Sophie was already suffering the effects of neuro-toxic vapours.

Collins Solicitors, which represents all 43 families, maintains that the 100 houses were built on toxic land in 1995, ignoring recommendations that the ground needed to be decontaminated.

Senior partner Des Collins said:  “The properties are unfit for human habitation – the neuro-toxic vapours are making the residents ill. Whilst it is important to ask why the site was not properly remediated before the houses were built the much more pressing issue is to find an immediate solution to the on-going health problems.”

Ground testing by experts appointed by the solicitors confirmed widespread presence of high levels of trichloroethylene (TCE), tetrachloroethylene (PCE) and other toxic solvents.

In addition, air testing at 25 of the properties in June and July 2011 confirmed that levels of toxic material in the indoor air were far higher than acceptable levels set out by the World Health Organisation (WHO) Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Standards, Mr Collins said.

North Lanarkshire Council, however, has published the results of its own tests showing the ground is safe and there is “no evidence” that “significant harm” could be caused.

Collins Solicitors warned yesterday that it was also considering legal action against other parties including the council, City Link Development Company and Clyde Valley Housing Association.

Lanarkshire Housing Association was unavailable for comment.