Environmental protection law (EPL) as well as executive acts, including those effective from September 2016, Regulation of the Ministry of Environment on assessing land contamination, and the Act on the prevention and repair of damages to the environment ("Damage Act") and its executive acts are the determinants used while dealing with a chemically contaminated land.
The most important question is: who and when should investigate soil and water contamination and what the scope of its responsibility is? According to the regulations, article 101h of the EPL says "Owners of the land where there is historical soil contamination are obliged to carry out remediation." Therefore, this research should be carried out by the land owner or potential buyer, because the lack of awareness of the historical soil contamination does not exempt the obligation to carry out remediation, which can significantly affect the investment costs. Thus, this research is particularly important for developers and owners of industrial areas.
Regulation of the Ministry of Environment on assessing land contamination clearly defines the way of identification of such a land.
The identification steps are:
- Historical analysis of the area - determination of activities that were conducted in the area and could have caused historical contamination. The types of activities that are most likely to cause contamination are listed in the Annex to the abovementioned Regulation.
- Determining the list of risk causing substances, the concentration of which will be tested by taking soil samples - based on the historical analysis of the site and any available archival research, as well as any information on used, produced or utilized hazardous substances in the area.
- Analysis of sources of information relevant for the assessment of soil contamination risk, including the local spatial development plan, ecophysiographic studies, geological databases, etc.
- Gathering information necessary for performing preliminary tests and their implementation. This includes: determination of the group of soils, location of contamination sources, determination of the sampling scheme for mixed and individual surface sampling points in specific depth ranges, taking into account local sources or the presence of embankments, taking samples according to the scheme, chemical and water permeability tests, comparison with permissible content of substances mentioned in the second stage and preparation of preliminary research documentation.
In the case of chemical contamination, the area and scope of detailed investigations are established to assess the spread of contamination in the plan and cross-section.
If contamination of historical origin was found during the preliminary tests, further proceedings should be carried out in accordance with the Environmental Protection Law of April 27, 2001 (Article 101e) "The owner of the land who found historical pollution of the land on the territory which is in his possession, shall immediately report the fact to the Regional Director of environmental protection”.
The number of tests necessary to comply with the Regulation depends on the size of the area and the group to it belongs to (§9, point 3a).
Example: ASSESSMENT OF SOIL CONTAMINATION IN THE INDUSTRIAL AREA
We have an industrial area (group IV) with a surface of 3 ha, where steel processing was carried out:
The Regulation states to take:
- 10 surface samples - for a test area of 3 ha 10 sections are established, each of them takes 15 surface samples, which form one pooled sample from a depth of 0-0.25m in each section
- 10 samples from the depth of 1m - it is proposed to take 10 single samples from the depth of 1m in 10 boreholes, one in each section (determined individually based on an on-site verification, historical analysis, etc.)
- in case there are local sources of contamination or embankments, the samples are also taken from the depth exceeding 1m, to the expected depth of contamination and below the depth of embankments.
- Testing of samples on hydraulic conductivity from depths> 0.25m,
- Chemical tests (list of substances to be determined on the basis of historical analysis and Regulation: metals: chromium, zinc, cadmium, copper, nickel, lead, mercury, hydrocarbons: C6-C12),
- Preparation of preliminary research documentation,
- And if contamination is found, design and perform detailed tests.
Both sampling and testing must be performed by a company with PCA accreditation to the extent specified by the Regulation.