News Walthamstow

Toxic chemicals like arsenic found beneath Walthamstow estate

Arsenic, lead and carcinogen benzopyrene were all found in the soil
By Local Democracy Reporter Josh Mellor

Walthamstow's Marlowe Road Estate is in the process of being rebuilt
Walthamstow’s Marlowe Road Estate is in the process of being rebuilt

The regeneration of a Walthamstow estate has been complicated by the discovery of toxic chemicals like arsenic in the soil beneath it.

In 2015, a study of soil dug from thirty locations on Marlowe Road Estate, found “an exceedance” of arsenic, lead and carcinogen benzopyrene.

The chemicals pose a “potentially significant risk to human health” and have forced developer Countryside to replace the top layer of soil in the private gardens and play areas of the estate.

The issue was revealed in a new planning application made to Waltham Forest council in January, explaining what was found and what remedial works are needed.

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According to the report: “In order to protect residential end users from the identified contaminants in the shallow soils, at this stage it is recommended that a 60mm clean cover system is used in private gardens and a 450mm clean cover system in soft landscaped areas.

“The importation of a clean cover system into these areas will also ensure successful and healthy plant growth.”

The report states that the only risk of the pollutants to human health is through “direct contact, ingestion and inhalation”.

Although it is unclear how the soil became polluted, a history of the site in the report says terraced houses from the 1890s were replaced by the estate in the 1960s.

There were also an engineering works and ice cream factory nearby, both demolished in the 1970s.

Contaminated soil which was removed during earlier phases of the estate’s regeneration was replaced with safe soil from Rainham.

Specialist pipes will be used to protect the new development’s drinking water from any risk of contamination. 

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