What is land contamination?

The land is the ‘universal sink’ of our environment. Land contamination occurs when substances, wastes, hazardous chemicals, or oil are released into the environment.

When these hazardous materials are in high concentrations in the environment, they migrate to potable groundwater. As a result, they expose themselves to humans and other organisms. In this case, we are all exposed to risks to our health, ecology and business liability.

Contaminated land does not only affect humans – it affects all living organisms. Alongside the health and environmental impacts, it has major economic, legal, and planning implications.

The causes

Land contamination occurs for many reasons. The reasons can be accidental or natural. Either way, it poses a severe risk to the environment.

1. Accidental spill sites

Accidental spills can release thousands of litres of gas, oil, and chemicals into the land and water.

2. Natural and human-induced disasters

Natural or human-induced disasters, such as floods or terrorist activity, can contaminate land. It can also cause more problems at already contaminated sites.

3. Abandoned and inactive land mines

Abandoned and inactive mines can lack the proper clean-ups needed to ensure safety. Sites that have these mines may also have exploration holes, waste dumps, pits, and mine openings. As a result, the whole area is unsafe.

4. Underground storage tank failures

Underground storage tanks can fail due to faulty installation, operating procedures or maintenance systems. For example, a community gas station stores petroleum and hazardous substances in large underground storage tanks. When these tanks fail, it causes extensive land and groundwater contamination, posing a significant risk to the surrounding properties.

The consequences

Contaminated land poses hazards to the environment and our health.

Some sites might have lower levels of contamination, and therefore pose a lower threat. However, other sites may have high levels. In this case, the chemicals persist in the environment and expose themselves to living organisms.

Contaminated land needs proper management. Improper management leads to the exposure of humans to harm through the consumption, skin contact, or inhalation of contaminants.

How can I avoid land contamination?

You can avoid land contamination by controlling the release of hazardous wastes and chemicals into the environment. If land contaminants are suspected at any phase in a project, the cause should be identified and corrected to avoid ongoing risk.

Contaminated lands should also be managed effectively to prevent further risk. This management involves land clean-up to reduce the level of contaminants at the site.

If the contamination poses an immediate threat to humans and the environment, you should implement a risk-reduction strategy as soon as possible to eliminate the hazard.

How can I identify it?

Environmental consulting services, such as Envirofree, offer land contamination assessments. These assessments ensure that a site is not in danger of contamination.

For instance, a consulting service can perform remediation. In this process, experts revert contaminated land back to its original, pre-human chemical composition. This assessment ensures that your site poses the least risk to humans and other organisms.

Summary

Land contamination is the result of several reasons. Storage failures, chemical spills, or natural disasters can all contribute to the problem.

A site project needs proper management to lower the risks associated with contamination. It’s not just a matter of business – the entire ecosystem depends on it too.