Remediation of one of the largest contaminated sites in the south east can now begin in earnest with the news that London has won its bid to host the 2012 Olympic games.

The announcement in Singapore this week signals the creation of what London bid officials say will be the biggest urban park in Europe for 150 years. The project should restore rivers, remediate land previously contaminated by industrial use, improve the air quality by creating an Olympic park low emission zone and reduce car dependency through improving public transport links and providing safer walking and cycling access.

London’s lower Lea Valley, the chosen site for the 2021 games, running from Stratford to Canary Wharf, is home to one of the most deprived communities in the UK with high unemployment and poor public health. It is also the largest area of derelict and contaminated land in the capital and part of the Thames Gateway Strategy, the largest brownfield development scheme in Europe.

It was also previously the site of Europe’s largest fridge mountain. The Lea River, running through the site, was used as an industrial waterway and often had a lot of sewage pumped into it as well as filling up with waste water from storm overflows during heavy rainfall.

As a result, the whole area will require a large remediation operation, which would be funded through a central government budget of £800 million, before the Olympic park can commence. Remediation of the contaminated soil would mostly take place on site, with bioremediation playing a major part, developers anticipate.

The project also envisages a major restoration of the river and wetlands and the recreation of floodplain areas to conserve biodiversity.

All other development would be funded through a mixture of private sector investment, lottery money, and, most controversially, a levy on council tax for Londoners.

The Olympic park should create 12,000 permanent jobs in the area as well as several thousand temporary ones including around 7,000 in the construction industries.

The bid also contains plans to make the games low-carbon through the integrated use of various forms of renewable energy and the materials chosen for building, as well as aiming for zero-waste through partnerships with recycling and re-use organisations.

In the long term, temporary structures such as coach parks and land bridges erected to cope with the influx of visitors, all of whom would have to arrive by public transport, would be turned back to green space after the games have finished, and affordable housing areas built to a high environmental standard using the BedZed development as a model.

Commenting on the announcement Guy Thompson, Director of Green Alliance said: “This is a great day for London and particularly for those communities who will benefit from the regeneration it will bring to the city. From the start the green credentials of the bid have been a key feature and there is no doubting the commitment of the team to make 2012 the greenest Olympics ever. This announcement provides a real opportunity to demonstrate sustainable development in action. We look forward to working with the team to ensure their vision becomes a reality.”

By David Hopkins

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie