A rapidly changing fuel industry has left its mark on the Australian landscape. According to the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA), petroleum or service stations account for the most significantly contaminated sites across the country. For builders, architects and town planners, uncovering service station remains can be an alarming find that requires effective environmental management. Learn why this is a problem in NSW and how to effectively manage any contamination to retain land value.

The growing problem of service station contamination in NSW


Service stations are unfortunately one of the most at-risk sites for land contamination. The potential for leaks into surrounding soil and groundwater can stretch far beyond the boundaries of the property itself and be damaging to human and environmental health. 

In Australia we have a particular problem with land impacted by a large distribution of service stations. Of the 25,000 service stations fuelling the nation in the 1970s, only 7,000 remain. The incoming wave of electronic transportation could see a further 80% of service stations close by 2030. 

This will see more contaminated land brought to market with service station contamination. With many closed service station sites still unregistered or unmarked, land purchasers must conduct thorough pre-sale environmental investigations.

    The impact on land owners and prospective buyers


    Effectively managing land that has been contaminated by service station activity is in the best intentions for all involved.

    For land buyers, contamination from historical service station use presents a serious problem. If purchased land is later discovered to have service station remains – like Underground Petroleum Storage Systems (UPSS) and groundwater pollution – you are liable for containment, remediation and ongoing management of pollution to industry acceptable levels. The unexpected costs of these actions can significantly devalue your land and investment.

    For land owners, understanding the full extent of contamination through a Preliminary Site Investigation (PSI) or Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) will give you a real gauge on the value of your land. Along with setting a realistic purchase price, this insight gives you an opportunity to remediate the land. These proactive actions can raise the property value, attract more buyers and prevent lowball offers based on third party site investigation reports that identify contamination. 

    For service station owners, understanding the extent of the problem empowers you to conduct remediation now. In NSW, service stations must have leak detection systems in place to immediately contain contamination. Sites must have at least three groundwater monitoring wells and two inspections per year by a qualified environmental consultant. Our consultants will conduct tank & line integrity testing if contamination is expected.


    Local experts ready to investigate

    Up to 80% of service stations could close in the next 10 years. Don’t let potential contamination reduce your land value. Speak to our team.

    Effective contaminated land remediation


    The scope and quality of Site Investigation reports is where your environmental provider will prove their mettle. A poor environmental investigation will only review a narrow scope of potential contamination areas. An experienced environmental expert will take a broader lens when reviewing your site to uncover the full extent of pollution. Local field experience can help environmental providers to quickly identify common contamination, such as historic service station structures and the use of free-fill soil.

    A thorough PSI could identify the full extent of contamination and the required remediation. This can change according to the use of the site where high human activity – such as childcare centres and residential housing – will have a more conservative contamination threshold. Once the contamination has been identified and classified by qualified experts, remediation can begin. 

    With the appropriate environmental measures, contamination from service stations is a manageable problem. NEO Consulting provides in-situ and ex-situ remediation options to fit every development type. Our environmental experts can provide guidance on bioremediation, on-site treatment tanks, capping and containment, chemical injection and more. 

    Once remediation is complete, your site should be officially validated and cleared for human use.

    Clearing the path to validated land


    As Australia continues to go green, the market availability of contaminated land and its negative impacts are expected to rise. Land remediation and professional site investigations will remain vital to protecting community health.

    Don’t let contamination caused by historic service station activity become a nasty surprise. With the right environmental partner, you can take control of the problem and get your land validated.