Levels of lead and benzoapyrene above Government-set guidelines were found in soil samples taken by the Environment Agency.

Residents of around 50 homes have been sent letters this week explaining the situation, reassuring them that there is no immediate health risk and providing a list dos and don’ts.

They have been told they can continue enjoying their gardens, but should take precautions such as removing dirty footwear before entering the house, scrubbing and pealing any vegetables grown in the contaminated soil, wearing protective gloves when gardening and rinsing tools, stopping children playing in the soil or putting it in their mouths.

The residents have also been advised not to dig holes for building works or plant any deep-rooted shrubs.

“It’s some homes near the River Severn in an area called Alney Island which is a part of the city that is prone to flooding when the river reaches high levels,” Marcus Grodentz, a spokesman for Gloucester City Council, told edie.

“The Environment Agency was planning some flood defence work there and as part of the preparations took some soil samples and discovered there was some contamination around some of the properties.

“As a city council, contamination is our responsibility.”

While further investigation is needed to pinpoint the source of the contamination, it is believed to be connected with quantities of buried ash and clinker tipped in the area in the 1950s.

There is also an outside chance that some of the infilling dates back as far as the 1920s.

Will Conaghan, a council spokesman, said: “Lead and benzoapyrene are often associated with coal ash.

“There is no immediate threat to health.

“Some of the samples were taken from gardens, others were not.”

“At the moment we are carrying out more tests as further investigation is needed to confirm how much contamination is present before we look at what remediation is needed.”

The next step will be to take more samples to determine the full extent of the contamination.

The work is not expected to start for another five to seven weeks, however, as the council must draw up a proposal then put the job out to contract.

By Sam Bond

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