Land and groundwater contamination is something we have lived with since industrial activity began.

It is present in cities, rural and regional areas all over the world and is a legacy of an industrial time where safe waste disposal methods were not understood, and potential human health and environmental risks not yet known.

Then there’s the potential for more recent contamination – from things like agricultural chemicals to landfills.

Victoria has been identifying and cleaning up contamination for decades, developing a number of controls regarding land and groundwater protection, including, for example, through the environmental audit system, and more broadly, the Environment Protection Act 1970.

Today, previously unknown contaminated land is often found when there is a change of land use for a particular property or area - for example, from industrial to residential use - and the state's planning system triggers a type of site investigation.

In most cases, land and groundwater found to be contaminated can be cleaned up as part of a development for a change of land use. Alternatively, such sites can be subject to clean-up and/or management under EPA directions.

EPA Environmental Audit information included in Victoria Unearthed is a good starting point to find out about any clean up and remediation undertaken for a particular address or area. However, please note that the existence of an environmental audit report does not guarantee that any or all of the conditions suggested in that audit have been implemented.

EPA: Contaminated site management

Land contamination means that chemical substances or waste are present in the soil at levels above what would be expected to occur naturally. Contaminated land is often a byproduct of our industrial past – a time when our awareness about protecting the environment was much lower than it is now. Then there’s the potential for more recent contamination – from things like agricultural chemicals to landfills.

Victoria has been identifying and cleaning up contamination for decades, developing a number of controls regarding land and groundwater protection, including, for example, through the environmental audit system, and more broadly, the Environment Protection Act 1970.

What is contamination?

Groundwater is water that pools or flows beneath the surface, filling porous spaces in the earth. It includes water from bores, springs or wells. Groundwater can be used for a range of purposes.

Groundwater contamination means that chemical substances or waste are present in the groundwater at levels above what would be expected to occur naturally. As with land contamination it is often the result of poor environmental care and practice.

What is contamination?

Most causes of land or groundwater contamination come from our industrial past and poor waste practices. Then there’s the potential for more recent contamination – from things like agricultural chemicals to landfills.

Causes of contamination

If you have any concerns that you think may be related to potential contamination, you may wish to:

  1. get further information via EPA and other sources, such as the State Library of Victoria, historical aerial photos, local historical societies, historic land titles, council rates records, Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works plans and the Victorian Heritage Database
  2. speak with an experienced environmental consultant
  3. consult your doctor if you have any health concerns.

Basic backyard soil testing can be low cost and easy to undertake through programs like VegeSafe. However, in-depth site investigations can be far more complex and expensive.

Testing for Contamination

Victoria's planning system and regulatory activities by EPA have been addressing the clean-up or remediation of contaminated land and groundwater for decades.

Depending on the situation, there are different ways to treat contaminated land or groundwater.

Remediation and clean-up

EPA regulates Victoria's pollution and waste.

Regulation of contaminated land in Victoria

Page last updated: 14/03/19