British Gas does ensure that sites are made safe

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The Independent Online
FRANK DOBSON is quoted as accusing British Gas of being "more interested in profiteering than in protecting the public" when dealing with potential contamination on its former gas sites ("British Gas in secrecy row over poisoned sites", 19 March). This is inaccurate and irresponsibly alarmist.

British Gas inherited some 1,150 sites from former gas companies at privatisation in 1986. Most of these contained some degree of contamination left over from the old gas manufacturing processes. We have in train a multi-million pound programme to investigate those sites and to remediate where necessary.

British Gas is one of the world's most advanced organisations in the fields of soil analysis, remedial techniques and risk assessment. The central aim of our programme is to ensure that our sites are safe for everyone.

Some sites have been identified for potential sale or disposal. In these cases, it is wrong to say that we provide "secret" information to property speculators. The research we carry out on our sites is shared with local and regulatory authorities who work with us - on behalf of the general public - to develop remediation strategies.

Unless we have decontaminated the site ourselves, we do not sell to anyone who does not have the experience, finances and commitment to deal with the problems properly. Indeed we have refused - and continue to refuse - to sell to anyone about whom we have concerns.

Mr Dobson calls for a public register of contaminated land. This may indeed do much to help alleviate public concern, but it would need to provide a proper definition of contamination, and to apply to all industries.

Cedric Brown

Chief Executive, British Gas

London SW1