Waste and chemicals can cause land and groundwater contamination. Changes in land or groundwater quality can pose a risk of harm to human health and the environment.  

Commercial, mining, industrial and agricultural sites often have some contamination. You may need to take steps to ensure you adequately manage any risks of harm. This is the case even when the use that caused the contamination happened before you took control of the land.  

Types of activities that can cause contamination

Contamination typically comes from particular industrial, agricultural or commercial activities. For example, chemical or waste spills and leaks. The reasons for contamination can include: 

  • poor waste management 
  • poor construction, industrial or agricultural practices 
  • illegal dumping or unsafe storage of harmful products. 

Contamination in significant volumes may spread from the original site to nearby properties or public areas such as creeks and rivers. This can happen via: 

  • contaminated soil blowing off a site as dust over time 
  • contaminated surface water run-off 
  • harmful surface products leaching into groundwater 
  • contaminated groundwater flowing offsite. 

The table below sets out the main activities linked to contamination. To understand if contamination might be present check past and current uses of land you manage or control:

Land use activities linked to contamination

  • List of potentially contaminating land uses and activities

    • abattoir
    • abrasive blasting
    • acid and alkali plant and formulation
    • airports and airstrips
    • commercial laboratory sites
    • asbestos production/storage/disposal
    • asphalt and bitumen manufacturing
    • automotive repair/engine works
    • battery manufacturing and recycling
    • boat and ship building or maintenance
    • boiler or kiln use
    • brake lining manufacturers
    • breweries and distilleries
    • brickworks
    • cement manufacturing
    • cemeteries
    • ceramic works
    • chemical manufacture /storage/blending. For example ethanol, fertilisers, paints, herbicides, pesticides, photography chemicals, plastics, solvents, dyes 
    • coke works
    • commercial engine and machinery repair
    • compost manufacturing
    • concrete batching
    • defence works
    • depot – council works/utility/pest control
    • drum or tank reconditioning and recycling
    • dry cleaning
    • electrical components manufacture
    • electrical substation/transformers
    • electricity generation/power stations
    • electroplating
    • explosives industry
    • fibreglass reinforced plastic manufacturing
    • firefighting or firefighting training. Includes use of foams.
    • foundry operations
    • fuel storage depot
    • gas works
    • glass manufacture
    • industrial activities involving hazardous chemicals in significant quantities
    • iron and steel works
    • lime works
    • landfill sites, waste depots
    • materials recycling/transfer stations 
    • metal smelting, coating, refining, finishing and/or treatment
    • industrial scale mining/quarrying/extractive industries
    • motor vehicle manufacture and workshops
    • oil or gas production and refining
    • pharmaceutical manufacture and formulation, including illegal laboratories
    • port activities
    • printing and photography shops
    • pulp or paper works
    • radioactive material use, for example, in hospitals
    • railway yards
    • sites of incidents involving release of hazardous materials
    • shooting ranges and gun clubs
    • scrap metal recovery
    • service stations and fuel storage
    • sewage treatment plants
    • stock dipping sites
    • spray storage and mixing sites, for example, orchards
    • spray painting
    • tannery and associated trades
    • textile operations
    • timber preserving/treatment
    • tyre manufacturing
    • underground storage of liquid chemicals, wastes or fuels
    • waste treatment/incineration/disposal
    • wool scouring.
  • Other site uses

    Sometimes the main activities or uses onsite may be harmless, but other activities could cause contamination.  Examples include: 

    • above ground storage of chemicals or fuels, not including bulk storage or warehousing 
    • informal waste disposal or illegal dumping 
    • imported fill material of unknown origin 
    • sheep dips on farms.
  • Regional contamination

    Some areas of Victoria have many sources of contamination spread out across large areas. Examples include: 

    • historic gold mining 
    • known contaminated fill material. 
  • Contaminating activities on nearby sites

    Pollution migrating from a nearby site can contaminate another site. This may cause mobile contamination in gases or groundwater. You must consider this risk if your site is close to the following businesses: 

    • vehicle repair/engine works 
    • bitumen manufacturing
    • chemical manufacturing/storage/blending
    • council work depot
    • defence works
    • dry cleaning
    • electrical/electrical components manufacturer
    • electroplating
    • firefighting training
    • fuel storage depot
    • gasworks
    • service station/fuel storage
    • tanneries and associated trades.
  • Intensive agriculture

    Most forms of farming or agriculture will not cause contamination, but intensive farming may. Examples of intensive farming include those that involve a large amount of pesticides.  

Reviewed 17 September 2020