Ilex welcomes announcement of funding for Fort George Decontamination

15th March 2011

Ilex today welcomed Minister Alex Attwood’s announcement that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has contributed £3.2 million funding towards the cost of decontamination on Fort George.

Chief Executive of Ilex, Aideen McGinley, said: “Ilex welcomes the Minister’s announcement that he has secured funding to allow us proceed with decontamination on Fort George, paving the way for the future development of the site”.


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Investigations carried out on Fort George found significant sub-surface contamination comprising hydrocarbons and heavy metals. Ecological contamination in the form of Invasive Plant Species, including Japanese knotweed, is also present over large areas of the site. This is not unusual on brown field sites which have been subject to a variety of industrial uses over a protracted period of time, in this case since the 1830s.

The main contaminants on site are: poly-aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), hydrocarbons, zinc, lead, copper and nickel. The first two are widespread while the others are to be found in small concentrations. The Japanese knotweed, if not controlled, also has the potential to cause damage to new underground services, roadways and possibly building foundations.

All of the above contaminants exceed human health screening levels and therefore require remediation prior to site development. Decontamination of the site is a top priority for Ilex. There is no public access to the site at present, there is therefore no risk to the general public. It should be noted that a significant section at the centre of Fort George is entirely uncontaminated.

Ilex is committed to realising the full potential of the Fort George site for the economic and social benefit of the city. Under current Northern Ireland contaminated land legislation it is a planning requirement that all potential environmental risks from contamination to the end-users of the site must be either removed or mitigation measures implemented. Decontamination is therefore essential to allow future development.

Decontamination processes are likely to include:

  • Air-sparging which is used for the remediation of sites contaminated with petroleum hydrocarbon and entails injection of compressed air into the ground via boreholes.
  • Pump & Treat/Soil Flushing which involves the extraction of contaminated groundwater using pumps or the siphoning effect of a vacuum stream applied below the water table.

Remediation will be undertaken by a specialist contractor who will be publically procured via OJEU (European Journal). The exact method(s) of decontamination will be determined by the appointed contractor and will be undertaken to the required standards. The actual cost of remediation will depend on the method(s) chosen by the selected contractor.


From the 1830s part of the site was used as a shipyard while another area served as a municipal dump. Part of the site comprises of “made ground” i.e. land recovered from the River Foyle and the Penny Burn in the early part of the 20th century. In World War II it was a ship repair yard, post second World War it was a naval base and in 1970 control passed to MoD.  The range and level of contamination is consistent with these former uses.