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How To Test For Agricultural Land Contamination

Despite the fact that agricultural areas may have never been used for any industrial purposes in the past, there are still a number of possible sources of pollution, including pesticides, hydrocarbons, and asbestos. From a risk assessment standpoint, this means that farm sites should be considered similarly to industrial sites, and contaminated land investigations are necessary to address any possible contamination.

If you own agricultural land that you intend to build on or sell and you suspect it may be contaminated, there is a straightforward process to test or manage the potentially contaminated agricultural land. Managing potentially contaminated agricultural land will involve a phased approached that includes a Phase 1 Preliminary Risk Assessment (Desk Study) that may lead to a more detailed Phase 2 Intrusive Site Investigation, in order to determine the level of risk present at an agricultural site.

In short, we carry out an assessment to gauge the potential risk from contamination at the site and provide recommendations as to whether physical testing, in the form of an intrusive site investigation, is required.

Desk Studies - The initial phase of managing potentially contaminated agricultural land, commonly referred to as a Desk Study or a Phase 1 Preliminary Risk Assessment, entails gathering all pertinent information on the site's past and present uses as well as its environmental setting. This allows for the development of an initial risk assessment of the potential risks present at a farm site and determine the requirement or scope of any required further investigations.

Desk studies may show that there is no need for further investigation as there are no significant risks present, so this first phase is very important in the risk assessment process, both for safety and for potential cost savings.

Soil Testing - Further testing will be required in cases where desk studies on potentially contaminated agricultural land reveal potential risks. This often involves taking soil samples from the site and analysing them in UKAS accredited laboratory, to identify elevated levels of contamination. By doing this, you can assess the contamination risk at a farm site is and determine whether remediation is required.

If no contamination is found, it can be considered that the area is uncontaminated, giving you the confidence to move forward with your project.

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Agricultural Land Contamination Sources

You may think that natural activities like farming wouldn't cause contamination and that there would be no issues when applying for planning permission or selling agricultural land. They are generally in rural areas and unaffected by industrial activities so how could they be contaminated?

There are several ways that agricultural activities can lead to pollution problems, including the use of pesticides, asbestos in roofs, fuel spills, and the burning of organic products. These have the potential to emit pollutants that are bad for the environment and human health, like heavy metals and hydrocarbons.

Pesticides - Pesticides that are improperly stored or managed might cause contamination problems as chemical compounds accumulate in the soil. Future human health risks could result from this, especially if the area is developed for residential use. Due to the fact that Pesticides can be transferred through groundwater or surface water courses, these substances can also contaminate the environment around them. Agricultural land may also contain heavy metals due to the usage of conventional insecticides like lead arsenate. The lead and arsenic in these pesticides stay after the plants they were applied to rot, which causes a build up of lead and arsenic poisoning in the soil. These metals may be extremely poisonous and present a serious risk to people.

Hydrocarbons - Due to leaking storage tanks or spills while being used, heating oil and red diesel storage on an agricultural site might result in contamination. Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) are organic substances that are released through the burning of organic materials including paper, wood, and vegetative materials in addition to petroleum hydrocarbons. When these materials are burned, the ashes can either be applied to soil or, through atmospheric deposition, enter the soil. A risk assessment should always be conducted to establish the potential level of contamination risk as it may not be immediately evident if these contaminants are present.

Asbestos - Often used in roofs of agricultural buildings, asbestos presents a significant risk to human health if asbestos fibres are inhaled, either during redevelopment or when the site is used or lived on. If an asbestos roof is broken, through general wear on the building over time or accidental damage, the fibres can make their way into soils and present a risk to human health in the future. Carrying out a risk assessment would allow for the analysis of the likely level of contamination risk from asbestos at an agricultural site.

Meet Our Agricultural Land Contamination Consultants

Consultants - Supervised by our Chief Technical Officer, Louis Turner, our fully comprehensive agricultural land contamination assessments and testing services, are carried out by highly qualified consultants, combining over 30 years experience with recognised in-depth technical qualifications in identification of contamination and environmental issues, as well as the implementation of remediation work.

Management - Our wealth of experience in project management, logistics and environmental consulting allows us to provide efficient, friendly and high quality contaminated agricultural land services for our clients. As a company, we believe that helping clients achieve their goals while simultaneously protecting the environment is a true "win-win" situation.

Partners - Our experienced, professional and qualified construction and consulting partners further extend the range of environmental and agricultural land contamination testing services we are able to provide. Our partners provide our clients with services such as waste management, remediation implementation and construction services.

Contact Us - Contact us and let us know your requirements. Following initial consultation we can provide an outline proposal detailing how we can help and the costs involved. Our environmental consultants can then carry out contaminated land investigations as needed to support your project or situation.

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