Since 1990 in the UK, there has been a legislative requirement for local authorities to compile registers of contaminated land. A similar concern is reflected through legislation in many other countries. Contamination may have penetrated deep into the soil and can be in any form - inorganic or volatile/semi-volatile organic. The organic material may be stable for long periods or may rapidly biodegrade. There could be a problem of groundwater contamination, and the volatility of the contaminants may also produce atmospheric problems. A potential hazard of building houses on contaminated land containing biodegradable material is the accumulation of methane in the house from the anaerobic decomposition of the material. In certain cases, this could lead to an explosion! A second problem is illustrated by the recent local discovery (in Tyne and Wear, UK) that a number houses had been built on the site of old dry-cleaning works. In this case, it is possible that the soil had been contaminated with chlorinated solvents from the previous industrial activities.
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