Frequently Asked Questions About Contaminated Soil in Australia

If a homeowner suspects that they have contaminated soil on their lot or someone owns a lot with contaminated soil, this is not a problem to ignore. Certain contaminants can pose extreme health hazards for people, and of course contaminated soil is not healthy for the environment either, as those contaminants can contribute to pollution. If you suspect you have contaminated soil in a lot or already know the soil is contaminated, note a few questions you might have and then discuss these with an environmental expert if you need more information.

1. What constitutes actual contamination?

Since you as the site owner may be liable for the cleanup costs of any contaminated soil, you would do well to know what actually constitutes contamination in the soil. This would be a substance that is a risk or has the potential to become a risk to human health or the health of the environment. Also, the substance in the soil must present a true risk from a source, such as groundwater; there must be a pathway or access to that source, such as a well; and there must be "receptors" to that risk, meaning residents or occupants. So, as an example, if there is contaminated groundwater and a well leading to that water, but no occupants or residents of the lot in question, the lot may not be considered truly contaminated.

2. Does soil always need to be removed?

There is no one solution to contaminated soil; in some cases, you may be able to plant certain flowers and vegetation that will absorb contaminants in the soil. Mustard greens, for example, might be planted to absorb certain heavy metals such as mercury.

Also, note that you may also be able to put physical barriers between the source of the contamination or the pathway and the "receptors." This might mean removing that well that goes to the contaminated groundwater or adding a retaining wall to the site that keeps contamination away from nearby residents.

That being said, in some cases it can be best to simply remove contaminated soil altogether. This can allow you to replace the soil with fresh dirt or topsoil; you might also add rocky soil to help deter the flow of water from a nearby source that may be bringing in the contamination. Removing the contaminated soil can also ensure that contaminants such as asbestos don't become airborne or otherwise travel to another area and contaminate that lot or environment as well.

For more information, you may want to contact a contaminated soil removal service in your area.