Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Dealing with contaminated land on construction sites

Dealing with contaminated land on construction sites

What you must do

Always check that a desk study, a site investigation and risk assessment has been carried out with regard to potential contamination on the site and that it follows Environment Agency guidance CLR11.

GOV.UK: Model procedures for the management of land contamination (CLR11)

Before you start work

The client should, through the project health and safety file, supply you with information on any contaminants that may be present on the site on which you will be working.

This may be in the form of a site investigation. If a site investigation does not exist, you may need to arrange one.

Site investigation and sampling to assess contamination.

Consult the local planning authority

The planning consent for the site may list conditions relating to the redevelopment of the site that you need to comply with.

In Northern Ireland advice is provided on land contamination via the planning process, managed by DOE Planning.

Northern Ireland: DOE Planning

In Northern Ireland provisions to deal with contaminated land have been produced but are not yet in force. When they come into force, it is likely that these regulations will be similar to those in England, Scotland and Wales. The development of sites affected by contamination is currently regulated by DOE Planning, with advice from NIEA and Environmental Health and through Building Regulations enforced by the Department of Finance and Personnel's (DFPNI).

DFPNI technical booklet: Site preparation (Adobe PDF - 741KB)

In Scotland, Planning Advice Note PAN 33 provides information on land contamination as part of the planning process.

Scotland: Development of Contaminated Land

Check that contaminants have been dealt with

Always check with the client or the designers of the building or structure that the presence of land contamination, and the potential for causing pollution and risks to human health and the environment, have been assessed and taken into consideration during the design stage.

Ensure that all actions required by regulators have been completed before any works start.

You may be held liable, regardless of whether or not you are supplied with information on contaminants in the land, if your actions lead to contaminants present on the site causing water pollution or risks to human health or the environment.

Where contamination is present, poorly designed and installed structures could introduce pathways by which contaminants can migrate into water-bearing soil or rock layers, surface water or present risks to human health and the environment.

If material excavated on your site is suitable – in terms of engineering properties, health and environmental considerations – you may be able to reuse it as part of the development. For information on the licensing requirements associated with the reuse of contaminated material, please contact your local environmental regulator.

If the material is not suitable for use, it will need to be removed from site.

Plan and prepare the site

Make sure that you plan your site so that you can separate contaminated materials from non-contaminated materials, and that you can store them without risk of pollution. Contaminated materials may need to be stored in a particular way, for example to prevent contaminants from leaching into the ground or into watercourses in the area where the contaminated material is being stored. Drainage from such storage areas may need to be contained or treated.

If you discover any unexpected materials during your work, stop work until the materials have been adequately identified. Examples of such materials include:

  • buried drums, tanks, pipework or containers
  • soil or water with colour or odour
  • non-natural materials and wastes
  • other evidence of contamination, for example iridescent sheens (like oil or diesel) on soil or water.

Identify actions to manage any contaminated materials found and refer to the following guidance

SEPA: Land Remediation and Waste Management Guidelines

SEPA: Planning Guidance on Land Subject to Contamination Issues

Include the need to stop work and identify potential contaminants in your method statements and site induction so that everyone working on site knows what to do.

Ensure actions identified to deal with contaminated materials are agreed and carried out before work restarts.

Dispose of contaminated material

Material that you excavate on site and are not able to use will most likely be removed from the site. This material is considered to be waste and you must remove it in accordance with the Duty of Care and hazardous/special waste regulations.

One of the requirements of the duty of care is that you must provide a full and accurate description of any waste that you remove, for onwards transfer.

To satisfy this requirement, on your waste transfer note, you may have to supply laboratory-testing information. Consult the European Waste Catalogue and WM3 to see if the type of waste that you are disposing of is listed as Hazardous Waste.

Hazardous Waste - Consolidated List of Waste (see Appendix A)

Hazardous Waste - Interpretation of the definition and classification of hazardous waste

Duty of care - your waste responsibilities

If the type of waste that you are disposing of is not listed in the European Waste Catalogue or there is any suspicion that the material may be contaminated you will need to undertake the three tests set out in WM3.

Technical Guidance WM3: Guidance on the classification and assessment of waste (2015)

This information will help you to decide on the best disposal route for the material. You will need to speak to your waste haulier to establish the best disposal option for any waste material.

All hazardous or special wastes must be pre-treated before being landfilled. See our guidance on sending waste to landfill.

Review the health and safety file and any desk study and site investigation information that you have. Ensure that all associated risks to health and the environment are determined and that control measures to address those risks are identified and put in place prior to any land being disturbed. If you are not able to make sense of this information, you will need to go to an expert for advice.

In Scotland information about animal burial pits (eg anthrax or foot and mouth) in or close to your working area can be obtained from Animal Health.

Animal Health

If you excavate buried livestock you are responsible for its correct disposal. For advice you should contact the National Fallen Stock Scheme by calling 0845 054 8888.

National Fallen Stock Scheme

DAERA: Fallen animals – advice for animal owners

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