Contaminated soil unearthed on Leicestershire housing estate

Potentially harmful toxins have been discovered in the soil of a Leicestershire housing estate.

Wigston homeowners have received legal notices declaring the land contaminated after the discovery of toxic chemicals traces above recommended levels in 30 Little Hill estate gardens.

Stephen Bruce Wigston, Oadby and Wigston Borough Council head of environmental health, moved to reassure residents saying: "There is a low risk but that doesn't mean there is no risk. There are possible health implications from long-term contact with this.
"We have asked residents if they have suffered any illnesses, they have not. We also have no records of any clusters of illnesses in that area."

Residents have been advised not to let children play with the soil and to keep soil out of homes.

Meanwhile, specialist consultants are examining how to remedy the site.

The council says residents are being kept informed about investigations and when the contaminated land is cleaned up homeowners will receive certificates to prove it to future buyers.

Borough environment spokesman, Councillor Bill Boulter, said: "The council is now pursuing all avenues of funding the remedial works and is keeping the residents fully informed. We will not stop until this situation is sorted."

One resident, who did not want to be named, said: "The sooner they can sort this, the sooner we can get on with our lives."

Since 2000, local authorities have been required to identify sites which could pose an environmental risk under the Contaminated Land (England) Regulations.

The council began investigating the site, testing soil and tap water, two years ago.

It is not the first contamination scare in the area, which is home to one of the sites being considered for a government eco-town.

In 2006 some 58 households nearby, including in Salcombe Close, part of Pochins Close and Launceston Road, were told they were at risk of contamination because their homes had been built on the site of the former Great Wigston Gasworks.

The gasworks in Newgate End opened in 1857 and provided fuel and lighting for town homes for more than 100 years by extracting, gas from coal but this left residual chemical deposits including coal tar derivatives such as Benzoapyrene and heavy metals such as lead.

Tests found the soil in about 30 properties had higher than recommended levels of these chemicals. Injecting chemicals into the soil to neutralise the poisons or replacing deep layers of soil with clean topsoil are ways of dealing with the problem.

Plans to build a series of eco-towns across the country were announced in 2007 in a bid to ease housing shortages.

The borough site, known as Pennbury, just a few miles from Wigston, is among those being considered for a shortlist of 10 sites to be unveiled later this year.

Sam Bond



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