surveyor testing soil samples

Discover the Most Common Soil Contaminants and How to Fix Them

Soil contamination is a huge environmental issue that can have a serious impact on human health and the environment. Anderson Engineering conducts environmental surveys so you know your site and the risks associated with developing it. Learn what the most common soil contaminants are, and how you can deal with them.

Testing Soil in Engineering Surveys

There are a few ways to test for soil contamination. The first is to take a sample of the soil and send it to a laboratory for analysis. This is the most accurate way to test for contamination, but it can be expensive and time-consuming. However, official laboratory testing is often required for a project to get the green light, so make sure you don’t skimp on this step; in the grand scheme of things, spending a few hundred dollars on soil testing is a drop in the bucket compared to having a project halted because proper testing wasn’t done beforehand.

Remember, you’re not only testing the soil for contaminants but to see if it is compatible with the type of construction project you wish to carry out. 

Another way to test for contamination is with field instruments. These instruments can give you an idea of what’s in the soil, but they’re not as accurate as lab testing.

Once you’ve identified the contaminants in your soil, you need to figure out how to deal with them. If the levels of contamination are low, you may be able to just leave the contaminated soil in place and monitor it over time. But if the levels of contamination are high, you’ll need to remove the contaminated soil and dispose of it properly.


  • Soil Bearing Capacity
  • Liquid Limit
  • Plastic Limit
  • Shrinkage Limit
  • Soil Permeability
  • Soil Drainage
  • Toxins

What Causes Soil Contamination?

Soil contamination is typically caused by human activity, whether it’s from industrial waste, agriculture, or even household chemicals. While some contaminants can be naturally-occurring, they’re often found in much higher concentrations near human development. This is why engineering surveys are so important – they help us understand the risks associated with a site and how to mitigate them.

Most Common Soil Contaminants 

There are a variety of different contaminants that can be found in soil, but some are more common than others. 

Heavy Metals: These include lead, mercury, and arsenic. They can come from industrial sites or mining operations.

Petroleum Products: Gasoline, oil, and other petroleum products can leak into the ground and contaminate the soil.

Pesticides: Pesticides can get into the soil through runoff from agricultural fields. They can also be present in urban areas where they’ve been used to control pests.

Herbicides: Like pesticides, herbicides can get into the soil through runoff from agricultural fields or from urban areas where they’ve been used for weed control.

Sewage: Sewage can leak into the ground and contaminate the soil, especially in areas where there are septic systems.

If you’re concerned about any of these contaminants, Anderson Engineering can help. We offer environmental surveys to identify potential contamination risks at your site and recommendations for contaminants found.

What To Do if The Soil is Contaminated

If your soil is contaminated, there are a few things you can do to clean it up. 

Physical Removal: This involves digging up the contaminated soil and hauling it away. This is often not practical or possible, especially if the contamination is widespread.

Chemical Treatment: This involves using chemicals to break down or remove the contaminants from the soil. This can be effective, but it can also be expensive and may pose risks of its own.

Bioremediation: This involves using plants or other organisms to remove contaminants from the soil. This is often a more natural and environmentally friendly option, but it may take longer to achieve results.

Brownfield Sites and Remediation

Brownfield sites can be found in both urban and rural areas. They often have high levels of contamination, which can make them difficult and expensive to clean up. However, brownfield sites also represent an opportunity for redevelopment and revitalization. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) actually has a program in place to bring Brownfirlds back to life through property cleanup and development. 

Anderson Engineering can help you choose the best option for cleaning up your contaminated soil. Revitalization of these spaces can bring positive growth not just to the community, but to the environment as well.


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