The design and implementation of an appropriate contamination investigation are essential in gaining a satisfactory understanding of both contamination issues and their possible solutions. The data produced should be reliable, reproducible, and representative of actual site conditions, both at the site and in the chemical testing laboratory.
The principal objectives of a contamination investigation are to determine the nature of contaminants present on the site and their likely behavior, spatial distribution, and volumetric extent. However, no investigation can guarantee to find all contaminants that may exist within a site or to precisely quantify their presence. The refined objective then becomes the assessment, within an agreed (and reasona ble) degree of certainty, of the likelihood of any contamination being present and the significance of the risks that may be associated with these contaminants. It is risk assessment that is hence at the heart of any contaminated land investigation.
The late Colin Ferguson, a pioneer in contaminated land assessment in the United Kingdom in the late 20th century, had four fundamental rales of risk assessment. These were:
1. Question all of your results.
2. State all of your uncertainties.
3. You have to make a decision.
The ethical (not to mention legal) ramifications of incorrect contaminated land risk assessments can be highly significant, and specialist advice should be sought where any doubt exists in such areas.
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