Soil contamination—also known as soil pollution—is caused by some form of industrial activity, agricultural chemicals or the improper disposal of waste. The most common chemicals involved in soil pollution are petroleum hydrocarbons, pesticides and lead and other heavy metals. Soil contamination can also happen as a result of underground storage tanks rupturing or the leaching of waste from landfills. Mining, fertilizer application, oil and fuel dumping and a multitude of other environmental issues can also cause pollution of the soil. It is believed the pollutants onsite are 80% to 90% aliphatic with the remainder being aromatic compounds like benzene, toluene, xylene etc presenting varying degrees of environmental and health risks if left untreated prior to site reuse.
Crops and plants grown on polluted soil absorb much of the pollution and then pass these on to us. This could explain the sudden surge in small and terminal illnesses. Long term exposure to such soil can affect the genetic make-up of the body, causing congenital illnesses and chronic health problems that cannot be cured easily. In fact, it can sicken the livestock to a considerable extent and cause food poisoning over a long period of time. The soil pollution can even lead to widespread famines if the plants are unable to grow in it.
The ecological balance of any system gets affected due to the widespread contamination of the soil. Most plants are unable to adapt when the chemistry of the soil changes so radically in a short period of time. Fungi and bacteria found in the soil that bind it together begin to decline, which creates an additional problem of soil erosion. The fertility slowly diminishes, making land unsuitable for agriculture and any local vegetation to survive.
The toxic chemicals present in the soil can decrease soil fertility and therefore decrease in the soil yield. The contaminated soil is then used to produce fruits and vegetables which lacks quality nutrients and may contain some poisonous substance to cause serious health problems in people consuming them.
The emission of toxic and foul gases from landfills pollutes the environment and causes serious effects on health of some people. The unpleasant smell causes inconvenience to other people.
Soil remediation, also known as soil washing, is a term that refers to various processes designed to remove contaminants such as hydrocarbons (petroleum and fuel residues), heavy metals, pesticides, cyanides, volatiles, creosote, and semi-volatiles from soil.
Ozone remediation is becoming a key tool within the range of processes used to remediate contaminated soils, particularly since extraction and offsite disposal of contaminated soils is no longer viable. Using ozone as a remediation technique to treat soils contaminated with hydrocarbons.