The report, Dealing with land contamination in Scotland was released on Tuesday, May 26 and aims to provide a definitive list of potentially contaminated sites while describing how efforts to remediate them are progressing.

It is the first attempt to show the extent of contaminated land in the country and estimates that up to 82,000 hectares of land could be contaminated by a variety of pollutants from asbestos and oil to heavy metals and toxic chemicals.

Martin Valenti, SEPA’s principal policy officer for contaminated land and author of the report, said: “This report is designed to provide a baseline of information on how Scotland is dealing with land contamination and from which future progress can be measured.

“The industrial achievements of the last two centuries have invariably left a legacy of land contamination as, in common with other countries, it was established practice to dispose of waste by tipping on the land often, but not always, close to the site of production.

“Poorly managed raw materials, chemicals and fuels can also lead to spills and releases to land.

“Legislative provision for the contaminated land regime came into force in Scotland in 2000 and since then has significantly raised the profile of contaminated land in Scotland.

“The legislation and statutory guidance require local authorities to inspect their areas from time to time for the purpose of identifying contaminated land.

“Where the land fulfils certain criteria, it should be determined to be contaminated and action taken to secure its remediation.”

There is a significant amount of interest in land contamination from a variety of groups including local authorities, land developers, environmental consultants, academic institutions and the general public.

This report, which was prepared by SEPA at the request of Scottish Ministers, details the progress made in implementing the contaminated land regulatory regime, commonly known as Part IIA, through which local authorities and SEPA effect remediation of land contamination that is posing unacceptable risk to health or the environment.

The formal identification of contaminated land through Part IIA represents just one mechanism for addressing risks from land contamination as a result of historical activities.

The report also describes the important progress that has been made in dealing with the wider legacy of land contamination via the planning system and voluntary action.

The full report can be found on SEPA’s website

Sam Bond

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