How to remove heavy metals from soil
By Jennifer Holmes

How to remove heavy metals from soil

what is a heavy metal contamination and how do heavy metals get into soil?

Due to enormous economic development and rapid growth in many industries, the environment is becoming more polluted, especially with heavy metal contamination in soil, causing an alarming combination of environmental and health problems.

Heavy metals – such as Cadmium (Cd), lead (Pb), copper (Cu), and zinc (Zn), are classed as ‘heavy’ when their environmental toxicity exceeds the standard Maximum Residue Limit (MRL). They can get into the ground from industrial activities and mining, wastewater and agriculture and tend be as as result of both anthropogenic (human actions) and natural sources.

hazards of heavy metal contamination

Soil contamination by heavy metals causes serious health issues (and conditions) for humans, animals and plants. Pollutant particles can also be emitted into the air, and this is one of the main reasons why soils containing heavy metal contaminants on construction sites deemed for human habitation must be removed.

It is true that some heavy metals (zinc in particular) assist in some organ functions of both plants and humans, however they become toxic when their concentration exceeds a certain level. When this happens it can get into our food chain and be harmful or even be the cause of chronic conditions.

heavy metal soil remediation – how to test soil for heavy metals

It is important to undertake heavy metal analysis in soil to determine whether there is contamination that requires removal. A sample of the soils will be carefully extracted and taken to a laboratory for testing, where quantitative and qualitative measurements are recorded which determine the extent of contaminates present. We can manage this for you.

Heavy metal excavation

excavating heavy metals from contaminated land

When land that has been contaminated becomes disused (often referred to as brownfield sites) it is seen as an opportunity for redevelopment or reconstruction. It is vital that the soils are analysed prior to purchasing the land to establish if there is evidence of heavy metal pollutants. Often these abandoned sites are also rife with invasive plants, and especially the rhizomatous species (Japanese knotweed, Giant hogweed etc) which will absorb the pollutants through their rhizomes (roots) and cause further spread.

So once the soil tests confirm contamination, the next step is removal and safe disposal. With other contaminates such as asbestos found in soils we can manually pick large pieces out, which reduces the volume of soil to be excavated, however with heavy metals the only solution is to extract all contaminated soil via excavation. We can do this for you – being licensed to handle and remove contaminated ground.

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