Historical Signs Your Land Might Be Contaminated

Posted on: 5 June 2017

If you're buying a property or some land, the last thing you want is to discover some sort of contamination in the area. While contaminated land might not cause harm to people or animals, there's a chance it will.

So how do you tell if there's a possibility of existing contamination?

Sometimes, there are signs that are difficult to miss. With so many potential contaminating substances, these signs vary quite a bit, but they typically include discolouration, odd smells, and plants failing to grow. More often than you might expect, however, there are no obvious indicators at all.

In these situations, you might have to do a little bit of investigating to find out if contamination is likely. And one of the best ways to do this is to look at the history of the area. If any of these activities were present in the past, it might be worth having an environmental assessment completed.


There are typically a lot of different chemicals used in commercial agriculture, and there's a higher risk where animals have been farmed. In particular, sites near a sheep dip often have contamination due to the substances used in it. But there are plenty of other harmful residues that result from farming, so if the area has been previously used for keeping animals, it might be worth having the soil tested.

Dry cleaning

Demonstrating that the causes of land pollution are not always obvious at all, dry cleaning makes the list due to the materials used in the process. It also shows that land contamination is not limited to rural locations, as dry cleaning establishments are often found in urban areas. Nowadays, of course, there are laws in place to ensure safe disposal of harmful substances, but this wasn't always the case. Anywhere a dry cleaning establishment used to be, therefore, may have contaminated land.

Landfill waste disposal

When waste is buried, much of it doesn't biodegrade; it just sits where it was left. And with a mix of different materials, there's a good chance some of the waste contains nasty substances. This can seep into the soil, polluting land near a landfill site.


If there is or was a factory nearby, there's a risk that used chemicals were dumped or that leaks occurred. The historical presence of any type of manufacturing plant should definitely be cause for concern.

Military bombing

Human activity isn't always positive, or part of providing a service or industry. Anywhere bombs were dropped during wartime has the potential to be contaminated by the chemicals and metals in those bombs, so it's worth having the ground checked.