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How to Find Out if Your Development Plot Is Contaminated

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The plot of land you've found for your first housing development project may look perfect, but things may not be what they seem. Before you start building, you need to establish if the land is contaminated. What is contaminated land? How can you work out if your plot has a problem?

What Is Contaminated Land? 

Contaminated land is basically ground that has been exposed to substances that are bad for people or the environment. This contamination is often historic rather than recent and is usually down to industrial or commercial operations. So, for example, land can contain chemicals or industrial waste products if it was once used as a site for a factory. Even residential plots may contain things like asbestos waste.

How to Find Out if Your Plot Is Contaminated

Sometimes, you can spot signs of land contamination on the surface of the plot. For example, you may smell chemicals or see unusual stains. Even if your site looks and smells clean, you still need to work out if it is OK or not.

Sometimes, land is sold with a contamination history that tells you about past problems and any remedial work done to fix them. This may not be available for all plots, in which case you'll need to do some research yourself.

To get started, try the following steps:

  1. Look at the land's title deeds: These may tell you what the land was used for in the past. For example, if the plot was once used as a petrol station, then there is likely to be some contamination in the ground.
  2. Contact your local environment agency: While state rules on contaminated land vary, all states hold a register of land that has been flagged under contamination regulations. Contact your state's environmental agency to find out how to access this register. If someone has found contamination on the plot in the past and notified the authorities, then the register will give you details.

If you don't find out what you need to know, then hire an environmental consultant to run a contamination assessment on the site. This gives you proof of whether the site is contaminated or not.

Your consultant can also help guide you through any legal steps you may need to take if they do find contamination on the plot. They can then advise you on the best ways to clean it up once and for all.