How to Conduct a First Inspection of Land for Potential Contamination

If you are looking to buy a significant portion of land, then you will likely have an eye to the future as far as its development is concerned. If you're looking to make some income from your investment through agriculture or farming, then you want to make sure that the underlying soil is fit for the purpose. What are some of the initial signs you should be looking for upon first inspection, before you even call in the experts to do an environmental assessment?

Becoming the Inspector

While the ultimate test is going to be the condition of the soil based on microbial and chemical analysis, many forms of contamination can be determined at face value by almost anyone.

Inconsistent Appearance

For example, have a good look at a section of the soil. It's made up of a mixture of nutrients, minerals and decaying plant or animal matter, but it should nevertheless have a consistent appearance. If you can see areas that appear to be stained or have a significantly different colour to nearby patches, this could be an indication of trouble. If the consistency appears to be "oily" in certain spots, this could indicate that there are some heavy metals, or residue from herbicides or pesticides beneath the surface.

Plants and Animal Life Present?

If there are some issues present it will undoubtedly affect the amount of plant life that appears on the surface. Once soil is contaminated, the plant metabolism is affected and this will prevent future growth. You will also find that contaminated soil has an absence of the microorganisms and insect life necessary to satisfy smaller animals or birds above the surface. When there is no raw material to feed insects and worms, birds lose their source of food, or become themselves contaminated, leading to reproductive issues. If you notice a general absence of small critters or birds in the vicinity, this could be another warning sign.

The Smell Test

Sometimes, you can pick up on issues through a strange odour in the area. Heavy metals or petroleum contamination can give off a significant smell sometimes, which you should be on the lookout for.

Lead Contamination

Finally, if there are any old buildings on the property, look around the periphery. If you can see any signs of paint chips on the surface of the soil from maintenance jobs sometime in the past, you will likely be looking at a case of lead contamination in the soil too.

Making Sure

Whether or not you see any obvious signs, you will need to gather soil samples for testing by the professionals.