Sometimes you think you're doing everything right. You’re complying with local and state disposal laws and doing your best to reduce your facility's environmental impact, only to find out you've got contaminated soil on your hands.
You contracted with a disposal company to deliver containers of this soil to a dumpsite only to have the site test the soil and deliver the bad news: The results come back positive for substances you must treat as hazardous waste.
Now, you have to act fast and have that contaminated soil transported from the landfill to the appropriate facility where it can be properly treated before disposal of the hazardous materials takes place. You also need to rethink your soil removal strategy at your facility.
This is a lot more than you bargained for when you planned the project or excavation. The good news is we have 6 tips that can alleviate the risk of contaminated soil removal and prevent your project from becoming a costly nightmare. The specific 6 tips are further down the page, but first, we need to understand what contaminated soil is.
Contaminated soil is most typically found in urban areas or around significant human developments. It contains ecologically-harmful substances that exceed what might be found in nature.
For example, arsenic and radon are naturally-occurring materials. If the amount is within the naturally occurring range for that area, then tests will not come back positive for hazardous waste, even though arsenic is present.
In other words, aside from a natural disaster, you generally can't or shouldn't blame a natural occurrence for soil contamination. The tests consider that.
Common soil contaminants that may have triggered your need to treat your soil as hazardous waste include:
Any of these materials found in the environment can harm the ecosystem and contaminate the groundwater that people, livestock, companion animals and wild animals may drink.
With that said, the EPA excludes specific hazardous waste from receiving a contaminated label even though it does pollute, mainly because as long as humans exist, some pollution is inevitable with current technologies:
In California, the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) is tasked with enforcing California hazardous waste laws and working with each facility to provide them with the information needed to reduce these contaminants and pollution in the first place.
It's important to realize that it is within the right of the state of California to demand higher standards of those who do business in California, so if you're unsure about whether the soil you're working with at your facility could be considered contaminated, it's critical to get a professional opinion.
According to the EPA, contaminated land and groundwater can occur in many ways, like:
Factories, junkyards, waste disposal sites, gas stations and auto service centers are likely to have runoff that contaminates nearby land. If you just purchased the land where one of these stood, or it's your next-door neighbor, then your land may be contaminated.
If you are unsure if your soil is contaminated, ask a hazardous waste disposal company to do a walk-through for you and test to see if you have a problem.
Cutting corners or pleading ignorance to information that is available doesn't work when we're talking about contaminated soil disposal. Improper disposal can lead to stiff fines and bad publicity that start to gnaw at the bottom line, so take these steps.
These six tips will help you have peace of mind knowing you correctly disposed of the contaminated soil … protecting the environment, people and your bottom line.