4 Facts About Soil Contamination

Contaminated soil testing with hands in blue rubber gloves holding soil

So, you’ve heard the term contaminated soil testing, but what does it mean, why does it matter, and why might you need it? Broadly, soil contamination refers to a soil that has been polluted by human activity. Typically, these human activities include industrial or agricultural activities, and also the improper disposal of waste.

This contamination can date back to times when there were fewer rules and regulations about our activities and their effects on the environment, and when there was a more blasé attitude to the environment and our connection to it, in general. That being said, there is still the potential for soil to be contaminated by our continued industrial and agricultural presence and the likelihood that careless people will continue to dispose of waste incorrectly and irresponsibly.

Keep reading to find out more about the types of activities that can lead to soil contamination, the effect of this pollution on human, animal, and plant life, and what you can do if you need soil testing in Melbourne.

All About Soil Contamination

Soil contamination can occur due to a variety of industrial, manufacturing, and agricultural activities. Just one of these activities is intensive farming, which involves the excessive use of pesticides. There are also many different substances that when exposed to soil, can cause soil contamination. These include chemicals like petroleum hydrocarbons and solvents, as well as pesticides, herbicides, and particular fertilisers, just to name a few. Among other substances, microplastics, oil spills, poor construction practices, and road debris can also lead to soil contamination. In Victoria, the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) provides guidelines, regulations, and information all about contaminated soil and contaminated land in general, which is a valuable source of information if contamination affects you.

How Does This Affect Us?

There are risks that come with contaminated soil, as we are connected in more than one way to the environment around us.

The EPA outlines a three-step model through which we can understand the effect of contamination, which is summarised below. For contamination to cause harm to us and our environment:

  • There must be a source: This refers to the source of the contamination, whether that is a chemical leak or the use of pesticides in the area. The EPA notes that while the source of contamination may not still be present, the contamination itself still could be.
  • There must be a pathway: This means that there must be a way for the source of contamination to spread, for instance, chemicals seeping into the soil and causing contamination.
  • Finally, there must also be a receptor: This means that there is a person or people that the contamination can affect. EPA also notes that receptors do not have to be humans, but they can also be environmental features such as plant life, waterways, and also animals.

So, why do we have to pay close attention to this contamination? Well, that’s because this contamination can have adverse effects on the health of humans, (as well as plants and animals). For humans, coming into contact with contaminated soil can have varying negative effects on health. For example, food grown in contaminated soil can have adverse effects on humans who consume it. To get more information about healthy soil, read our guide to how you can tell soil is healthy, and keep reading to find out the best way to be confident that your soil is not contaminated.

Understanding Your Responsibilities

Do you own land? Do you work on, or work with the land? Maybe you’re in an industry that may come into contact with contaminated soil or land frequently, or perhaps you work in one that has the potential to cause contamination. Regardless of which situation is relevant to you, it is important that you are aware of any and all rules and regulations pertaining to the land.

According to the EPA Victoria, as of 1 July 2021, you may be required to comply with contaminated land practices, which means that if you manage or control land, you have:

  • A duty to manage risks of harm from contamination, and
  • A duty to notify EPA of contamination in particular circumstances.

Head to the EPA site to read more about contaminated land and your duties, including working out if you manage or control land, and about all your responsibilities.

Need Soil Testing in Melbourne?

At Alpha Environmental, we’re here to help with all your contaminated soil testing and contaminated soil assessment needs. As environmental and occupational hygiene experts with 23 years of trusted experience, we pride ourselves on the provision of excellent customer service and effective environmental solutions. Whether you suspect that your soil is contaminated, or you just need a due diligence soil assessment, take a look at our list of comprehensive soil-related services.

For expert soil testing in Melbourne, call Alpha Environmental on 1300 039 181, or fill out our online form, and we will be happy to get back to you!