1. Where can contamination be present?
Contamination doesn’t just leak into the ground and stay in one place in the soil. That’s why it’s critical to not only know exactly what potentially contaminative activities have been present on your site over time, but also present on surrounding properties.
The mismanagement of petroleum hydrocarbons, industrial solvents and other chemicals (for example PFAS), can impact water and groundwater with the potential for some chemicals to enter the human food chain. Contamination can also be present in the air with vapours resulting from contamination in groundwater having the potential to significantly decrease the quality of indoor air and negatively impact human health.
2. What can cause contamination?
Lots of factors can cause contamination. Some contaminants come from natural elements, but most are from previous land use. Lotsearch have developed a unique and comprehensive data base that contains multiple lines of evidence to provide a better understanding of the history of any site in Australia. This data, gathered over 5+ years, can be used to identify former petrol stations, storage tanks, dry cleaners and other industrial processes that are usually a red flag for likely contamination.
3. What can we do as a firm or industry?
As an industry, it is essential that we undertake all necessary due diligence to ensure we have a complete picture of the site being considered for purchase. This includes, where necessary, engaging with third party companies, such as Lotsearch, who are able to provide a clear overview of historical and current landuses, both on and off-site.
4. How does this affect property transactions?
There is estimated to be 160,000 contaminated sites in Australia and purchasing a potentially contaminated site does not necessarily mean that the site is unusable for any future use. However, if you only become aware of possible contamination after the transaction, this may result in significant unplanned costs associated with remediation; both on and off-site.
5. Who is responsible for contamination?
The Polluter Pays Principle (PPP) is the commonly accepted practice that the costs of remediating pollution should be borne by those who cause it. It is recognised as a principle of international environmental law and is a fundamental policy of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the European Union, and their member states. While we have the Polluter Pays policy in Australia, in a lot of cases the original polluter cannot be located or is no longer able to pay meaning the costs of the clean-up are passed on to the current land holder.