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High Court dismisses contaminated land remediation notice judicial review

DATE: 03 Feb 2010

The High Court dismissed, following rolled up hearings, two judicial reviews of a decision of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to dismiss appeals made under s. 78L of the Environment Protection Act 1990 against a remediation notice issued by the Environment Agency in respect of land at St Leonard's Court, Sandridge, Hertfordshire.
 
The Agency issued the notice after the relevant local authority, St Albans City and District Council, identified the land as contaminated. Between 1955 and 1980, various bromine-based substances were manufactured on the land, which has led to bromate and bromide contamination of the chalk aquifer in the area of Hatfield, north London.

Today, St Leonard's Court is the UK's largest known point source contaminant plume. This is generating substantial concern given that groundwater flowing through the aquifer is a major source of water across a wide area of north London. Currently, the water companies are managing the situation by expending considerable sums on decontamination. The Agency, and subsequently the Secretary of State on appeal, was charged with deciding who should be held responsible for the contamination and bear those costs.

In upholding the remediation notice with modifications, the Secretary of State decided that liability should be apportioned between Redland Minerals Ltd, which controlled the site when the manufacturing works were ongoing, and Crest Nicholson Ltd, which purchased the site for a housing scheme in 1983. Redland and Crest are challenging the Secretary of State's decision on the apportionment of liability. Redland is also challenging the Secretary of State's decision to include scavenge pumping as a remediation requirement of the notice.

These are believed to be the first challenges brought against a decision of the Secretary of State on an appeal against a remediation notice issued in respect of contaminated land.

Sales J. refused permission on both claims.

Matthew Reed appears for Redland. James Maurici and Gwion Lewis appear for the Secretary of State.