What is land contamination or contaminated land?

Land contamination is the condition where either directly or indirectly, human activities have caused a substance to be incorporated into the landscape at concentrations that have the potential to harm human health or the environment. This is typically found on sites where hazardous substances have been used, stored or manufactured over long periods of time but can sometimes be caused by improper disposal or the illegal dumping of substances. 

What sort of land activities may cause land contamination?

The following activities have the potential to contaminate land:

§  acid/alkali plant and formulation

§  agricultural/horticultural activities

§  airports

§  asbestos production and disposal

§  chemicals manufacture and formulation

§  defence works

§  drum re-conditioning works

§  dry cleaning establishments

§  electrical manufacturing (transformers)

§  electroplating and heat treatment premises

§  engine works

§  explosives industry

§  gas works

§  iron and steel works

§  landfill sites

§  metal treatment

§  mining and extractive industries

§  oil production and storage

§  paint formulation and manufacture

§  pesticide manufacture and formulation

§  power stations

§  railway yards

§  scrap yards

§  service stations

§  sheep and cattle dips

§  smelting and refining

§  tanning and associated trades

§  waste storage and treatment

§  wood preservation

Contamination can also be caused by improper disposal or dumping of substances. 

How do I find out if my land is contaminated?

If the site history indicates the land may be contaminated due to a past land use you should have a contaminated land consultant carry out an investigation. The consultant will review the history of the site including its current and recent land uses and make a decision about what things, if any, need to be investigated. 
There are basically four stages of site investigation: 
 1.  Preliminary Investigation 
 2.  Detailed Investigation 
 3.  Remediation Action Plan 
 4.  Validation Report Council has a register that identifies sites where the land use, present or past, may have the potential to contaminate land.  
People can apply to find out if their land is on the register but it must be noted that a site can be contaminated and not be on the register. 

My land is contaminated what should I do?

Get expert advice. A properly qualified and practising contaminated land consultant is able to provide advice about the types and levels of contamination that are safe for different types of land uses and what you need to do to make sure your land is safe for you to use. 

When does Council consider land contamination?

Council considers whether land has the potential to be contaminated when an application to change the land use zone to a more sensitive land use is submitted to council. For example, when an application to change land from an industrial use to residential is received.  Council would consider the need for a Preliminary Investigation to be carried out. In these situations the applicant engages a consultant to carry out the investigation and submit a report to council as part of the application process.

How does Council protect land from becoming contaminated?

When a Development Application (DA) is submitted to council for a use that council considers may have the potential to contaminate land, certain conditions of consent are included on the approval. The aim of the conditions is to minimise the chance of land becoming contaminated and will typically include requirements for the proper storage of harmful substances and the proper disposal of waste materials.