Contaminated soil: the main contaminants found in residential areas

Although Quebec has strict environmental regulations, your home may be surrounded by contaminated soil. Many homeowners think their property is clean and free of contamination. However, there are certain triggers that indicate the presence of contaminants in the soil.

These triggers can be when you sell your property and the buyer's bank wants confirmation that there are no contaminants on the area. It can also be when you have your French drain cleaned by a professional.

Today, with studies proving the health and environmental dangers of contaminated soil, it is important to know what might be under your lawn! Here are the main contaminants that can be found on a residential property.

1. Land contaminated by oil

Aging or poorly maintained heating systems such as oil-fired systems are responsible for the contamination of a large amount of residential soil in Quebec. Hydrocarbons such as heating oil can contaminate a portion of land if it leaks from a fill pipe or tank that has not been inspected in a long time.

Although generally not harmful to the health of occupants, minor oil spills can cause damage to the building and must be dealt with quickly by residential environmental response specialists.

2. Soil contaminated by coal

Coal is another product that can be found in contaminated soil in residential areas. Like fuel oil, it is mostly from the heating of old buildings, where the furnaces of the time could be fuelled by coal. During this period, it was common to carry the still hot ashes to the back of the yard.

Therefore, some landowners in the older parts of Montreal may find coal when they dig in their gardens. They may then come into contact with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heavy metals, which will create health risks for them and their tenants.

3. Soil contaminated by hazardous waste

Across Quebec, homeowners sometimes discover that their stretch of street is built on a former landfill where tyres, glass, metals, and household waste have been buried. As a result, many residents on some streets are noticing mould on the ground or walls.

In addition to the hazardous waste buried under their land, they have to deal with the risk of soil subsidence and biogas emissions. The presence of residual materials on a contaminated residential property can, in the long term, cause pulmonary difficulties or disorders for the residents living above. A contaminated soil remediation company should be contacted to deal with the problem. 

4. Ashes left by a fire on your residential property

In the past, it was not uncommon to bury the ashes and charred wood of burnt-out buildings directly on the site of the fire, a practice that is obviously forbidden today. Apart from the fact that soil contaminated with ashes is problematic, the presence of these building remains contains considerable quantities of lead (from paint, for example), zinc and copper, which are very harmful to human health.

To check that your land does not contain thresholds that exceed the eligibility for residential use, you can consult the list of contaminated land in Montreal, Laval or Lévis.

5. Hazardous fill materials that contaminate your area

For many years, smelters have distributed some of their industrial residues free of charge for use as backfill material.
Today, it is known that some of these foundry residues may contain nickel and other metals such as iron pyrite. It is not uncommon to find soil contaminated by foundry sands on residential land in the Joliette area of the Lanaudière region.

If your residential property is contaminated, contact EBI Enviro Urgence

If you suspect that any of the contaminants discussed in this article are present on your residential property, please do not hesitate to contact our team. The longer you leave these contaminants lying around, the more of an environmental emergency it will become.

At EBI Enviro Urgence, we have unique expertise in contaminated soil management. We can decontaminate your land and dispose of the soil in accordance with the authorities' requirements, for your benefit and that of the environment. To do so, contact us as soon as possible!