Causes of contamination

Contamination is typically associated with particular industrial, agricultural or commercial activities, historical events (like the Bombing of Darwin and Cyclone Tracy), poor historical practices, and/or a lack of knowledge about the harmful impacts of contamination. There is also the potential for land to become contaminated due to unforeseen circumstances, accidents or criminal acts.

Contamination in significant volumes can also spread from a contaminated site to impact nearby properties or public areas such as creeks, rivers or even Darwin Harbour. 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 list below sets out the main activities linked to contamination. To understand if contamination might be present, you should consider all past and current uses of the land you manage or control. You should also consider the potential for contamination to migrate from a nearby site onto your land i.e. your proximity to a nearby contaminating activity.

List of potentially contaminating 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.

Refer to the NT EPA Contaminated Land Guideline PDF (2.2 MB) for further information on potentially contaminating activities and associated key contaminants of concern.

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