Is my site contaminated?

From an environmental point of view, contamination refers to an alteration of the physical, chemical or biological characteristics of environmental factors in such degree that they suppose an unacceptable risk for human health and/or the ecosystems.

There are several definitions of contaminated soil, many of them used in different environmental laws. Nevertheless, the most common definition refers to a contaminated soil as a soil which contains one or more contaminants from an unintentional or intentional spilling, leaking, pumping, pouring, emitting, emptying, or dumping of a hazardous substance, hazardous waste, or pollutant at a concentration which fails to satisfy any applicable remediation standard.

Contaminated soils cause different effects ranging from toxic risk to human health to loss of natural and economic resources.

The main hazards caused by a contaminated soil include:

  • Toxic danger for human health. Humans can be exposed to POPs through inhalation, ingestion and dermal contact with soil. Exposure to POPs, either acute or chronic, can be associated with a wide range of adverse health effects including allergies, breathing problems, illness and even death.
  • Risk of surface water, groundwater, river sediments, atmospheric, etc., contamination.
  • Physical danger: fire or explosion risk, corrosion of structures or negative effects in soil mechanical properties during excavations.
  • Risk for farm animals and food contamination, due to use of contaminated groundwater.

It is necessary to consider that the effects caused by a contaminated soil are, in general, longterm effects and in occasions the consequences are not detected immediately. Hence, potential dangers can take decades to appear with effects of highmagnitude.


Preliminary Site Investigation