The number of brownfield sites or facilities with contaminated land legacies are significantly less in Ireland than those of most other more industrialized European countries such as the UK, due to Ireland’s relative late arrival into the industrial age. The number of contaminated land sites in Ireland is conservatively estimated at a relatively modest 2,000 to 2,500. These contaminated land sites are mostly in the petroleum retail sector, at various industrial sites, at closed landfill sites, timber treatment yards, scrap yards, railway yards and former gasworks sites. In comparison, the number of contaminated land sites in the UK is estimated at possibly over 100,000.
The issue of historic contaminated land is one which in Ireland we have managed, insofar as it has been possible to do so, to avoid directly addressing. There is no definition of contaminated land within the Irish legislature. Other EU member states have chosen individual methods of addressing this issue e.g. the UK Environmental Protection Act 1990, Part 11A in the UK.
To date Ireland has no national soil protection policy nor does it have any national soil quality and/or remediation standards. There is as yet no dedicated regulatory regime providing guidance on the identification, assessment or remediation of brownfield sites. In effect, the regulation of contaminated land in Ireland is a ‘Non Liquet’ or legal Lacuna (i.e. a gap or void).