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Importing Soils – Importing Liabilities?

One of the last jobs for a development is often the landscaping. After months of disruption, the natural soils on site are perhaps looking a bit “tired”, heavily compacted and very low on organic matter. Ultimately no good for creating the Chelsea Flower Show worthy scheme. So you import some good quality topsoil and plant into that, but will this help or hinder your landscaping?

There lies a hidden danger when importing an unknown entity – a hidden liability. Recently, new soil was imported for a roadside landscaping scheme at Stonehenge, resulting in a very costly removal and disposal operation after asbestos was found in the imported soil.

The Stonehenge case is far from the only example (though perhaps the highest profile). The agb Environmental contaminated land team has been asked to assist on numerous cases, where an unsuspecting developer has imported topsoil that turned out to be below standard. In an ironic twist, several cases have resulted in the developer importing soil with higher levels of contamination than soil that was removed from site for the same reason before development started. Needless to say, the unexpected error has resulted in significant removal and disposal costs, and programme delays.

There is, fortunately, an easy solution to this. Testing the soil before importation is key, or if this is not practical, this could be done before spreading it on the site. However, the standard topsoil tests (usually undertaken to British Standard BS3882) is useful, but certainly doesn’t cover the key common contaminants (including asbestos). There is not a “standard” suite of testing, but an experienced contaminated land specialist should be able to provide guidance.

The other simpler alternative is to source the topsoil from a dealer when you can be certain of the origin. A common example in the East of England is British Sugar Topsoil.

If you are planning on importing soil to site, email Alex Brearley at agb Environmental or call 01638 663226 to ensure you don’t end up importing a liability.

Contaminated Land, News