The importance of cleaning up contaminated land

Contamination can harm the health of humans and animals in Cheltenham. It may affect the quality of groundwaters, such as rivers and streams, and the groundwater beneath. Certain chemicals in the ground can also affect the growth of vegetation.

Making the connection

A risk assessment is carried out to establish the threats that may be posed by contamination. Normally the "source - pathway - receptor" method is used and a conceptual model is produced to describe all the potential impacts that exist on a site.

The pollution on the site is defined as the source, the receptors are whatever is being contaminated (humans, water, vegetation and so on), and the pathway is how the source reaches and affects the receptor (such as ingestion of soil from vegetables, or inhalation of gases). When a connection is made between a source, pathway and receptor, this is called a 'pollutant linkage'. We assess the danger that the pollution substances pose on the receptor by using nationally accepted guidelines. Where the pollution threat to a receptor is deemed significant, then a 'significant pollution linkage' has been identified. The site must then be cleaned up to break all significant pollutant linkages through a process of remediation.

Remediation of a site occurs through a process of careful management and clean-up activity to make the site suitable for the intended or current use.

The Environment Agency has more information about assessing the problems associated with contaminated land.