Soil Management, Contamination, And Analysis
Soils host a quarter of the world’s biodiversity and are essential to water and nutrient cycles. Without proper environmental management, activities such as construction, industry, agriculture, mining, and waste disposal can all result in soil contamination.
Contaminated soils can impact surface waters, groundwater, and shallow drinking water systems, so soil characterization is a key component of every environmental site investigation. The scope of soil testing can range from the analysis of trace toxic metals to organic contaminants, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), microplastics, nanoparticles, per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), petroleum hydrocarbons, and a wide variety of pesticides and herbicides.
Defining Contaminated Soil
Soil management programs usually define contaminated soil as soil that contains one or more contaminants from an unintentional or intentional spilling, leaking, pumping, pouring, emitting, emptying, or dumping of a hazardous substance, hazardous waste, pollutant, or naturally occurring contaminant at a concentration which fails to satisfy any applicable remediation standard.
How Is Soil Contamination Regulated?
Soil contamination can originate from a wide variety of sources. For this reason, soil management is regulated by a myriad of federal and state programs. Some of the most common federal programs are listed below. These programs are also used by many states as a foundation for their regulatory programs.
The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) is a proactive program that regulates the disposal of municipal and hazardous waste. Under RCRA, soil is not defined as a solid waste, but must be managed as a hazardous waste if it contains hazardous waste. Soil contains hazardous waste if, when it is generated, the soil exhibits at least one of the four following characteristics:
The Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) authorizes the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate and screen all chemicals produced or imported into the U.S. to prevent unreasonable risks to health and the environment. Six chemical substances receive special attention under TSCA: PCBs, asbestos, radon, lead, mercury, and formaldehyde. These regulations also prescribe specific SW-846 extraction methods that are acceptable to this program.
The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), commonly known as Superfund, gives the U.S. EPA broad authority to respond directly to releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances that may endanger public health or the environment. Once a substance is designated hazardous under CERCLA, facilities will be required to report on releases that meet or exceed the reportable quantity assigned to these substances.
Your Soil Testing Laboratory Partner
With over three decades of experience, Pace® applies innovative solutions to environmental challenges to cost-effectively serve your soil testing needs. With advanced soil testing capabilities throughout our national laboratory network, we provide quick turn-around to ensure your program remains on schedule. Our soil services include support for a wide array of projects, including: