Contaminated Soils

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What are Contaminated Soils?

Soil contamination or soil pollution is caused by the presence of xenobiotic (human-made) chemicals or other alteration in the natural soil environment.

This type of contamination typically arises from the failure caused by corrosion of underground storage tanks (including piping used to transmit the contents), application of pesticides, percolation of contaminated surface water to subsurface strata, oil and fuel dumping, disposal of coal ash, leaching of wastes from landfills or direct discharge of industrial wastes to the soil. The most common chemicals involved are petroleum hydrocarbons, lead, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (such as naphthalene and benzo(a)pyrene), solvents, pesticides, and other heavy metals. This occurrence of this phenomenon is correlated with the degree of industrialization and intensities of chemical usage.

The concern over soil contamination stems primarily from health risks, from direct contact with the contaminated soil, vapors from the contaminants, and from secondary contamination of water supplies within and underlying the soil. Mapping of contaminated soil sites and the resulting cleanup are time consuming and expensive tasks, requiring extensive amounts of geology, hydrology, chemistry, computer modeling skills, and GIS in Environmental Contamination, as well as an appreciation of the history of industrial chemistry.