What a street name can tell you about your site

By Bryan Cherry, Environmental risk survey manager

Is your site on Spring Lane or Clay Pit Road? When thinking about the environmental risks on your land, street or area names can provide valuable insight into its history and what might still lie below. Environmental risk survey manager, Bryan Cherry, explains how they can reveal unforeseen hazards.

Water and ground contamination resulting either from a company’s activities or the condition of its infrastructure, equipment, pipelines and tanks, can bring many unwelcome consequences.

However, fantastic clues can be gathered by the road or street name your operation is on, as well as those in the immediate area. The names may tell you much about potential problems because street names often derive directly from past industrial/rural/commercial activity, as well as natural features and ecologies.

For example, if your operation is on ‘Gasworks Lane’, there may well be lingering contamination from the waste generated by a now redundant industrial plant that once produced flammable gas. This unwelcome residue could include PAH, phenols, cyanides etc. 

Similarly, ‘Tannery Row’ might still be blighted by the solvents and other toxins that were used to treat the skins and hides of animals in leather production, then carelessly spilled or disposed of before there was any real awareness of the dangers of doing so.

Meanwhile, ‘Dyeworks Road’ could host the dangerous by-products of the old dyeing process, such as arsenic, cancer-causing benzidine, allergy-inducing compounds or respiratory sensitizers, which can induce asthma and severe allergies.

All might have contaminated the soil and groundwater beneath your site and reduce its value considerably, limiting your ability to develop or sell your property.

On the other hand, if your oil distribution depot sits on ‘Spring Bank’, there may be a lot of water just beneath the ground, because of a high-water table. As such, the area is more likely to be environmentally vulnerable and easily impacted by your operations there than if it was on ‘Brickworks Lane’ – a factory type that would, typically, be underlain by clay, which limits the movement of contamination and is not a sensitive groundwater resource.

Regular environmental risk surveys are key to understanding the risks of environmental damage or potential damage.

Environmental risk surveys guide thinking on wider environmental risk management to help predict and describe how environmental incidents could arise (planning and prevention) and inform and target incident responses and measures to stop incidents happening in the first place.

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