Land contamination

Aerial view of Edenmouth showing sheepwash area

Aerial view of Edenmouth showing sheepwash area

Well, the good news is: the sheep dip won’t kill us. And much more importantly, it won’t kill the salmon in the Tweed either!

The bad news was that the Planners wanted us to prove it. So when we got our planning application approved, among the many conditions attached to it was the requirement “to identify and assess potential contamination on site.”

Our hearts sank – another thing almost designed to add delays to the project.

But how did they come to the conclusion that it was worth anyone’s while putting that condition on the plans?

It’s clear just looking at the aerial views of the land, and going visiting on site, that sheep have been on the field for some good time. But there’s no sign of anything but the remains of an old shed in the middle of our plot, and that is mostly a hole in the ground by now.

Map of Edenmouth 1993

Map of Edenmouth 1993

However as recently as the 1993 OS map there is a sheep wash marked on the edge of our plot, and this is what the planner saw and thought it would be sensible to check the land. A sheep dip appears to have been constructed between 1957 and 1969, but by 1995 it had disappeared.

If the original facility was simply a sheep wash, the sheep would just have been dunked in water to clean off the wool before shearing, and if this were the case, there wouldn’t be too much contamination left behind.

However a sheep dip was used to clean away pests in the wool. They tended to use various fairly nasty chemicals to do the cleaning including arsenic mixtures back in the 1800’s then more organic stuff after the 1950’s – organochlorines and organophosphates were common.

All of which could be more or less dangerous to live with, and the Council insisted that work be done to identify the risks involved.

Happily we weren’t responsible for sorting this assessment out. Pete O’Driscoll from whom we bought the plot had previously applied for planning permission to build on the plot himself, and as part of that process had commissioned an Environmental Assessment report.

The report explains how the sheep dipping worked:

“The sheep dipping process was carried out by immersing the sheep in a bath containing the pesticide solution. The sheep were then allowed to drain off, usually on an area of hard standing, to allow the excess pesticide solution to be recovered for use. The sheep would then have been placed in adjacent pens before being returned to grazing.”

The consultants dug 8 trial pits, took samples and had them analysed. They checked for arsenic, lead, mercury, nickel, selenium and zinc amongst other metals, and for Dieldrine and Hexachlorobenzene. And it all worked out just fine:

It is therefore our assessment that the use of this site for residential purposes does not present a risk to the health of any future occupiers.

The fish in the Tweed are also safe from the organic compounds.

So, if all this had already been carried out for a previous application and accepted by the Council, why were we being asked to do the same check? I rang the Planning Officer and explained that this had all been sorted out earlier. He sensibly suggested exchanging letters about it and so this morning we received his confirmation that all was well:

…Given that a contaminated land assessment has already been carried out on this site, and the findings of this assessment have been agreed by the Council’s Contaminated Land Officer, I am satisfied that a further Contaminated Land assessment is not required. In this case I am satisfied that Condition No 4 of planning consent 12/00455/FUL can be formally discharged.

One down, four more conditions to go!

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