“The ground is on fire!”
True story. We were sitting in the office when we got a call from one of our regular clients – a demolition contractor.
“We need you to come and check out this site. The ground is burning”
Not the usual sort of phone call we get. So Darren headed out to find out what was happening.
The crew were working on clearing a redevelopment site. It included a vacant lot next to a shop which they had just demolished. They had finished scraping the surface back to bare soil and they were just having a break. One of the guys flicked his cigarette butt away and the soil where it landed caught fire.
Soil sampling showed an elevated level of hydrocarbons. Further investigations showed that the vacant lot used to be a petrol station and workshop. Eventually nine underground tanks full of a mixture of water and petroleum products were dug up.
What initially started out as a fairly straightforward site levelling project suddenly blew out by over $50,000 for sampling, monitoring and disposal of the tanks and the contaminated water in the tanks. These expenses were not included in the project budget.
An initial Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment would have determined that the site was previously the location of a petrol station and workshop and that therefore there were likely to be contamination issues.
Soil sampling prior to commencing works would have detected the elevated hydrocarbon levels. In this case the high levels would have been a warning that the site was used for more than just car parking. It would also have demonstrated that the soil would have to be classified as Category C contaminated waste if it were to be disposed of offsite.
Whilst the majority of the expenses in removing the tanks and contaminated water would have been the same, the project would have run more smoothly if the initial investigations had been undertaken.
For all projects, proper planning and risk assessment is important for ensuring safety of personnel on site and to allow for control measures to be implemented for likely contingencies.
If you are uncertain about a site you are working at or developing, discuss the potential issues with a professional before you start. Give us a call on 03 5127 2311.