Soil Contamination Fact File

Just as pollution affects our air and water, it also seeps into the ground beneath our feet. Soil contamination is a common issue on industrial sites and in this article, we examine the implications of soil contamination and the management solutions available.

What is contaminated soil?

Contaminated soil is soil that contains human made chemicals. Key causes of soil contamination include industrial activity, agricultural activity, and improper waste disposal or accidents where a chemical spill occurs. When the contamination reaches levels where is affects the environment or human health, it become known as waste pollution. Petroleum hydrocarbons, solvents, pesticides and poly nuclear aromatic hydrocarbons as well as heavy metals like lead are all commonly detected in soil after industrial activity has taken place onsite.

How likely is it that there is contaminated soil on my property?

If there has been industrial activity on your site any time after WWII when inorganic pesticides, and synthetic materials began to be more commonly produced, then it may be worth testing for soil contamination. Certain industrial activities which involved heavy metals and toxic chemicals can have an even longer environmental impact and contamination can still be present a century after activity has ceased.

How do I tell if contamination present?

Soil sampling is only way to conclusively prove contamination. There are different assessment procedures for different types of sites and just some of the testing services that Alpha Environmental offers include the Environmental Site Assessment (ESA), Detailed Site Investigation (DSI), Soil Contamination Assessment for Statutory Environmental Audit, and Due Diligence Soil Assessment.

What are the implications of soil contamination?

Depending on the grade of contamination, soil which has been contaminated by certain chemicals can have serious implications for human health, affect the growth of plants, decrease the fertility of the soil, change the soil structure and produce toxic dust.

What are the treatment and management options available?

In Victoria, soil treatment processing is limited but infrastructure is being built to make soil neutralisation a more viable option in the future. Onsite containment or offsite disposal are the two most common solutions put in place but the way soil contamination on your site is managed will ultimately be dictated by the intended use of your site (the EPA requires residential sites to be thoroughly cleaned before development), and the kinds of chemicals present.

Alpha Environmental offer soil testing and assessment services for Melbourne homes and businesses. To learn more about the range of environmental solutions we offer, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us by calling 9415 8002.