November 6, 2020
The Role of Soil in Minimizing Risk
It’s well known that soil testing is often required by regulatory agencies before starting construction… but why soil testing is required is not often common knowledge. This blog post will provide background information on the safety risks linked to not performing proper soil testing, a mistake that is not only associated with legal repercussions, but with safety hazards for all who step on to your site.
Importance Of Soil Testing
As we’ve already covered, soil testing before breaking ground on a new construction project is required by law in the State of California. This is because common soil hazards including lead, asbestos, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), and chemicals including PCE and TCE often leech into the soil, polluting the dirt on a job site. To be clear, chemicals of any amount in the soil are never good for human health. However, construction often uncovers chemicals in the soil, exacerbating the previously unknown effects of soil contamination, creating even worse conditions for human health.
Importance Of Ongoing Soil Management
If you think your job is done after initial soil testing and remediation, think again. Once your initial testing is complete, it’s crucial to employ ongoing soil management practices to ensure that your soil remains clean. Ongoing soil management can include the following:
- Complying with hazardous waste cleanup regulations following the initial soil test.
- Re-testing your soil if there is suspicion that it might be contaminated again.
- Working with an environmental professional to develop a soil management plan that suits both your needs and the needs of applicable regulatory agencies.
To become a pro at avoiding the hazards we discuss below, check out our Guide to Dirty Dirt – a comprehensive look at mitigating the risks associated with soil on construction sites and real estate development projects.
Types Of Hazards Commonly Found In Soil
As previously mentioned, soil hazards can come in many different forms. It’s best for your project timeline and budget to test for soil hazards well before breaking ground on the project (six months before breaking ground is recommended), as waiting to characterize and dispose of contaminated soil can delay the project. Anyone involved in the industry knows that delays equal unplanned expenses. The chart below lists a few chemicals commonly found in the soil and their health risks.
- Lead: It’s well known that lead has adverse health effects in children, including a wide variety of developmental risks. Brain damage, for instance, is one common effect lead can pose on a child exposed to it. This article by the WHO further details lead exposure in children.
- Asbestos: In the past, asbestos was commonly used in commercial products, including insulation, fireproofing materials, and textile products. Today, asbestos can be found in insulation during construction, and naturally occurring in soil. When one is exposed to asbestos for long enough, he or she is at risk for asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.
- VOCs: VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, are toxic gases emitted from specific liquids. Usually, VOCs are emitted from common products, including paints, solvents, fuels, and cleaning products. Common VOCs found in soil are TCE and PCE, known commercial degreasing agents. TCE and PCE have been known to cause developmental effects in children, detailed in the Woburn, Massachusetts case that caused a leukemia cluster between 1969 and 1986.
Soil Testing & The Essel Difference
Essel is unique in that it serves as a one-stop-shop for all soil remediation services. Our team has the resources to:
- Create a soil management planning document
- Complete all permits required by regulatory agencies
- Conduct necessary testing, including Phase I Site Assessments, Phase II ESAs, geophysical surveys, and soil characterization
- Make contact with landfills and disposing of contaminated soil
Additionally, our team is known for its ability to meet the needs of your individual timeline and budget. Unlike other firms that provide environmental consulting for soil, Essel is able to create service packages uniquely tailored to your needs instead of standard pre-packaged services. Reach out to us with additional questions at 1-800-595-7616, or check out our Soil Due Diligence Checklist for landowners and developers.