Contaminated Land – An Introduction

Common Causes of Contaminated Land

Contaminated land, at its most basic level, refers to the degradation of land surfaces as a result of human activities. As a result, the area is affected by hazardous substances (e.g. arsenic, DDT or oil) which may pose a risk to human health and/or the environment. While contaminated land can occur anywhere and be the result of a wide range of practices, it is typically found in areas which have been used for heavy industry, have been exposed to chemically intensive agricultural or due to the improper disposal of waste. It is critical that the sources of land contamination are understood so that they can be prevented in the future. Thus, some of the main contributors to soil pollution are as follows:

  • Accidental spills and industrial accidents
  • Acid rain
  • Industrial factories
  • Intensive farming and the use of herbicides, pesticides and fertilisers in agriculture
  • Deforestation
  • Human sewage
  • Nuclear waste
  • Landfill and illegal dumping
  • Mining and associated works
  • Oil refineries and oil and fuel dumping
  • Drainage of contaminated surface water into the soil

As a result of these practices, the most common chemicals to be present are petroleum hydrocarbons, solvents, lead and other heavy metals.

Often the presence of contaminated land can go unnoticed until changes in land use or zoning are proposed, e.g. from industrial to residential.


Land contamination is recognised as a major environmental issue for Australia. Not only can it pose as a potential threat to public health and the environment, the presence of contaminated land can have also have significant economic, planning and legal implications for the community. For example, contamination may limit land use potential or increase costs for developers and councils.

The potential impacts of improperly managed contaminated land are depicted in Diagram 1 below. Source:

Risk of Improperly Managing Contaminated Land

For this reason, the investigation and clean-up of contaminated soil is important to ensure that human health and the environment are protected.


Contaminated land assessments generally take place in four stages:

  1. Preliminary Site Investigations
  2. Detailed Site Investigations
  3. Site Remedial Action Plan
  4. Validation and Long-Term Monitoring

It is important to note that all four stages are not necessarily required but are rather based on the results of the investigation at each point. Given the extent and level of contamination of the site, this will therefore determine the future course of action and relevant steps to undertake.

A.D. Envirotech has experience in conducting and providing advice regarding all four stages of contamination assessment. If you believe that you may have a problem with contaminated land, please do not hesitate to contact us and one of our consultants will be in touch to discuss the specific requirements of your site.



A.D. Envirotech Australia Pty Ltd – Head Office
Unit 6/7 Millennium Ct.,
Silverwater, NSW, 2128, Australia
(02) 8541 7214

A.D. Envirotech Australia Pty Ltd – Laboratory
4/10-11 Millennium Ct.,
Silverwater, NSW, 2128, Australia
(02) 9648 6669


A. D. Envirotech Australia Pty Ltd (ADE)
PO Box 288 Upper Coomera LPO,
QLD, 4209 Australia
(07) 5519 4610

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