Chesterfield’s most contaminated site is cleared

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The Avenue Coker Works in Derbyshire was one of the biggest and most complex contaminated sites in Europe, but today, it’s home to hundreds of new homes. It was cleared and developed during a remediation and building project that took two decades to fully complete.

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Avenue Coker Works

The site of the former Avenue Coker Works is located in Wingerworth, near Chesterfield. It was opened in 1956 as a cutting-edge facility where domestic gas was produced as well as solid state fuel, which was achieved through the carbonisation of coal. Unfortunately, a plant of this size and nature will produce many hazardous by-products and at the Coker Works, that included sulphuric acid, tar and benzole. This vast site was just under 100 hectares, which is roughly the size of 200 football pitches. The waste was disposed of in lagoons and contaminated not just the soil, but the River Rother which runs through the site. The plant was closed in 1992 and lay unused for seven years. In 1999, it was taken over by the now defunct Eastern Midland Development Agency, who began the long process of clearing and cleaning the site with the help of land remediation services.

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Complex remediation

Unlike most former industrial sites, which are contaminated with one or two toxins, The Avenue was now home to many contaminants. There was also the imminent collapse of a lagoon to contend with. The remediation works involved a number of practices which would target the various contaminants. This included thermal desorption, screening and soil washing, concrete crushing and grading and ex-situ bioremediation, a combination of which has also meant that the materials could actually be re-used.

To complicate matters for the land remediation services further, as a result of it being left derelict for so long, a number of animals had begun to thrive in the area and it was imperative that their new habitat was preserved. This included lapwings, snakes and kingfishers, as well as great crested newts. In fact, the site boasts one of the UK’s most significant populations of great crested newts. In 2007, planning permission was granted and building work began in 2017.

Today the site, known as The Avenue, is home to over 400 new homes, a school and most importantly, to 70 hectares of public open space, which includes sporting facilities and cycle paths.

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