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‘Your garden may be contaminated’
DOZENS of homes in Wallingford are to have their gardens dug up and tested for contamination.
People living in Charter Way, Hawthorn Close and Hazel Grove have received letters from South Oxfordshire District Council alerting them testing is to be carried out by an environmental consultancy firm at 40 homes.
The council says soil samples need to be removed for testing because the land was once used as for railway sidings and a metal works, before the homes were built in the 1970s.
And it warns residents that the council has powers under the Environment Act 1995 to use a warrant to gain access for the tests.
The letter, from contaminated land officer Darren Detheridge, was sent out earlier this month and tells residents that contractors are being asked to dig in their gardens to a maximum depth of 0.5m, to obtain samples between Monday, October 1 and Friday, October 5.
He said: “The council has no information to suggest that contamination is present, only that there is potential as the area is thought to have been used as a railway sidings and for metal working.
“It is this lack of information that has prompted the current investigation.
Mr Detheridge is asking residents if they have found any “discoloured or odorous” materials in their gardens and says the tests will establish if the materials pose “any potential health risk.”
Residents have contacted the council to try to find out more about the tests and what has prompted them.
A 60-year-old grandmother, who lives in one of the homes in Hazel Grove, said: “There must be about 300 private houses in these streets and I don’t think we have been given a proper explanation yet on why these tests have to go ahead now.
“The homes were built in the 1970s so it is puzzling that the council is waiting until now to carry out these tests.
“Sometimes you do dig up bits of coal in the garden which presumably dates back to when the land was being used for rolling stock.”
Wallingford town councillor Betty Atkins has lived with husband Peter in a three-bedroom end terrace in Hazel Grove since 1976.
She said: “I’m sure people living in the area will be concerned by this and would like SODC to make it more clear why this is happening now.
“It’s almost as if someone at the district council has opened up an old file.
“If our house is one of the ones that is selected for tests then we will agree that they can come and do it.”
SODC spokesman Andrew Roberts said: “The contaminated land department uses historic mapping data and planning records to identify potential problem sites across the district.
“This has been identified because of the previous use as a railway siding and a metal works.
“The council has no specific reason to believe the land is contaminated, but has a duty to assess such areas.
“Residents living in homes on this site have been informed that the land is due to be assessed, but there is no reason for them to be concerned at this stage about what is a routine procedure.”
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