What Are the Causes of Soil Contamination?

Soil contamination, also known as soil pollution, is caused by the presence of human-made chemicalsin the natural soil environment.

There are two types of waste; man-made and natural. Natural waste such as dead plants, animal carcasses, rotten fruits and vegetables improves the soil by making it more fertile. Man-made waste however,typically contains chemicals and toxins that are not commonly found in nature and as such, this kind of waste is what causes the most damage to human health and the environment.

Most commonly, soil contamination is caused by a combination of industrial activity, agricultural chemicals and the improper disposal of waste. Accidental spills and acid rain are also contributors.

  1. Industrial Activity

Industrial activity has been the biggest contributor to the problem in the last century, due to the constant increase in mining and manufacturing, and a lack of understanding of the possible impacts of industrial activity on the environment. When industries extract from the ground or emit chemicals, they often leave behind by-products that contaminate the soil. The groundwater and nearby surface water ecosystems of a site can also be impacted.

Typical industrial activities that are known to have caused soil contamination include mining, heavy metal smelting, service station and fuel depot operations, gaswork operations, timber milling, chemical production and power plant operations.

  1. Agricultural Activities

An increase in the use of pesticides and modern fertilisers that are full of chemicals which cannot be broken down naturally, has had tremendous implications on the health and fertility of our soil. Plants also absorb these chemicals and pollute the soil when they decompose.

Potentially harmful pesticides and herbicides have historically been used on a number of different properties, ranging from low-density residential blocks to large-scale crop operations (such as banana plantations and market gardens).

  1. Waste Disposal

The way in which we, as humans, dispose of our personal waste is cause forconcern. Our bodies are fill with toxins from our food and now, much of our personal waste (urine and feces) is making its way into our landfills, adding to the pollution of our soil.

Less commonly, accidental chemical spills and acid rain can contaminate and change the structure of our soil.

The appropriate handling, transport and disposal of waste is a critical component in reducing potential impacts of waste on human health and the environment.

In order to fully understand the extent and nature of soil contamination at a site, and to design a suitable remediation strategy, a site investigation program by a qualified consultant will typically be required as a first step. Increasingly, Councils and land developers will require these investigations in order to approve developments that may be proposed. Hazmat’s Environmental Scientist’sand Engineers have extensive experience in the assessment, identification, management, remediation and validation of contaminated sites.Contact us for more information about our contaminated land assessment services.