The Statutory Guidance on Contaminated Land, due to come into force in July 1999, promotes a risk-based approach to dealing with soil and groundwater contamination in the UK. The aim is to protect human health and the environment without wasting expenditure on remediation which delivers negligible environmental benefit (ie. cleaning-up contamination for the sake of it). The need for and extent of any remediation is determined from an assessment of the risks posed to human health and the environment, bearing in mind the end use of the site (eg. industrial, residential, amenity, agricultural).
When leaving contamination in the ground we need to be confident that the acceptable risk(s) have been correctly assessed based on current and likely future scenarios. This requires a greater understanding of the properties and environmental behaviour of contaminants than does a multifunctional risk-averse approach.