Which test should be carried out to detect the type and extend of soil and ground water contamination ?


Dear friends, for our new construction site we need to know the soil and water contamination in detail for various safety reasons. Can anyone advise me which are the chemical and biological tests to be done to find the type and extend of contamination in soil and water? 

We collected samples of soil and water from bore holes at different depths up to 20 m from our site located in a reclaimed area inside the bay (in Bahrain). We monitored gas levels in this location and it shows very high levels of hydrogen sulphide. Our client has asked us to conduct some more detailed chemical and biological analysis of samples collected. Please suggest which are the different tests to be done on these samples to prove that this area is highly contaminated?

We are also looking for an expert who can write a report depending on the laboratory result and help us minimize the risk involve at this site.

Your suggestions and responses much appreciated.




Kerry Frost
In depth chemical testing and analysis. Microscopic examination or ppm chart data. Depending on the severity of the contamination. Some types might be visible or smell.
Mallikarjuna alapaka
Yes Mansoor sir, your right I agree with you..you need to test the soil and water for the following parameters to check if the soil/water is contaminated or not; Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD), Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD), Microbiological Tests,PH and color,TDS,Turbidity.etc.
Eric Villepreux
The first question is: What contaminent are we looking for?

Dear All,

Thanks a lot for your valuable comments and advises. Finally we got an expert advice from an environmental consultants in California and we entrusted them to proceed with their studies and report submissions.

Leonardo Zanata
Ok then Davis! good Luck on your work!
Robyn Dowsey
Those are several test mixed into one statement – Best thing to do is contact an environmental testing company like Universal Engineering or PSI to help you put a plan together.
Laurra Olmsted
Dear Davis Augusthy

It depends on where you are, the surficial geology/soil properties and the type of contaminants that are of concern. You would start looking for the contaminants that might be there from activities in the area (industry, agricultural chemicals, latrines, petrol stations, etc). I definitely would need more information before being able to answer this question.

Kees Van Leeuwen
Have a look at the WHO Water Quality Guidelines as a start. Or US EPA or Environment Canada websites for useful documents
for water quality u need to test physical, chemical and bacterial analysis of the representative samples. the results should conform to the required levels, and never should exceed the extended limits or permissible limits. physical parameters include color, odour, turbidity, and these can be observed visually. the water samples should be transported to the labs, in the shortest possible time.one liter sample would be needed for the chemical analysis and make sure the containers are well washed (thrice, last with the source water) for analysis of iron in water the samples has to be acidified (100 ml in separate containers)
for bacterial analysis the samples should be collected in sterilized containers (obtained from the labs or if not from same medical shops where such containers are avaialble) and the sample should be take to the lab within 24 hours of collection.
regarding soil analysis soil chemists may be asked to clarify.
Bhola Dhakal
I think Ph value of water should be tested.Water and soil is in the state of acidic or base or norma stage need to be tested.Again test the minerals presentation. Also test the germs are present or not.Anyway we can do it.But I am not chemical related professional. Chemist will be good resource person for answer.
Steve Strong
Have you considered using a borehole camera for confirmation of what's going on down hole? You can see a variety of cameras at the website: www.lavalunderground.com
William Lipps
Do a priority pollutant screen. A previous commenter linked to the SW846 online. If you really want to know what is, or isn't in the water, do methods 8260, 8270, and 6010. You may also want to measure sulfide since you mentioned that. These are expensive tests.
Ipshita Majhi
I read that Gas chromatography and liquid chromatography help to detect soild contamination and here is a useful link for water contamination http://waterquality.cce.cornell.edu/testing.htm
Eugene  Peck
Dear Davis,
I see that you are getting some good responses, such as the one from Mr. Zanata. It was not clear if you are looking for testing methods for samples already collected or for a follow-up round of sampling. Sampling technique (the ways in which the samples are collected, handled and stored) and holding times before analysis are critical to obtaining accurate results, so the samples already collected may not be usable.

If you have evidence of pollutant discharge or migration into the bay and potential contamination of sediments and biological resources is a concern, there some different and additional protocols that would be appropriate to add to your testing program such as toxicity and bio-accumulation tests. The USEPA and Environment Canada have good guidance on testing sediments. Interpretation of sediment testing results is tricky, as hard and fast numerical thresholds do not apply for most constituents and a risk-based approach is typically used. Happy to discuss further if needed; gene.peck@viridianalliance.com.
Leonardo Zanata
Thanks by the suport... I think your recomendation very good too. Tks!
lyseconcept jean Marius
The biological analyses will not give any impression of pollution since they are biological, biological pollution not existing.
Concerning various chemical pollution the problem resides that each analysis seeks a chemical component. With the result that it would be necessary to make many sampling and many analyses.
It would not be not more advantageous to search at the beginning the possible pollutants of the site and to see according to their pollutant if those Ci arise during an analysis.
In France of the analyses are made on the rejection of waste waters. what recherceh T one?
That pollutants which one is certrains not to find. The analyses are always good.
Nitish Priyadarshi
For water contamination first step is to see the suspended particle and colors of the water. If the water is having colors and suspended particles is accepted as contaminated. Second stage is to go for chemical analysis for different elements and bacteriological counts. Sampling is the most important step and it should be done carefully. For soil colour analysis and then chemical analysis is the important method. In your area you can go for sulfur, Radon, Arsenic, lead, Nickel etc. If I can know the rock types i can able to say about the possible contamination of heavy metals. I have my experience in coal field area. I am still carrying out research work on water contamination in the coal mining areas.
Thanks Nitish. Water in the trial pit is blackish in color. Sampling done by an independent laboratory and we want to finalize the tests to prove contamination. They proposed several tests, from which I have to choose . By color analysis how we can identify the contamination? Upto 4m it is coarse grained gravel and sands and below that is firm to stiff sandy silt, followed by carbonate silt stone and bed rock. Please provide me your email so that I can send more details about the strata.

Nitish Priyadarshi
ok my email id is nitish.priyadarshi@gmail.com. Blackish in color itself shows that its contaminated either by oil or grease or some other organic material. For heavy metals you can opt for Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometer. Definition of pure water is that it will be colorless, tasteless and odorless.
Leonardo Zanata
Hello Mr. Davis, How you're doing?

Actually you have a little bit long path to trail before reach some very conclusive result, in my opinion. But, let's go:

At First, you will have to know the geological and hydrological propieties of the site, as: type of soil by layer (the deep shall vary); deep of the groundwater table; flux, velocity and direction of the groundwater on the site.

Then you shall prepare a probing plan, foreseeing the instalation of the monitoring wells, as much as necessary to identify the points of contamination. You probably already have some of those monitoring points installed.

Now, for the examination, Bahrain must have a national policy against pollution that might give you the parameters of pollution control in the country. If it not exist, you can use the USEPA Soil Screening Guidance: Technical Background Document, that can be found in the link:


In Brazil (São Paulo State) we use a specific standard that is based on the EPA parameters.

For the analisys, I recomend that you use a laboratory certified by ISO/IEC 17025, a international standard for laboratories that should ensure the data integrity. But if you need, this is the link for the methods and tests of US Environmental Protection Agency: (USEPA)


It can be also used the Standard Methods for water and Wastewater from AWWA as reference.

This is a link of a case from USEPA monitoring:

I'm interested in give you support. If you want to talk about or ask more, this is my e-mail: leonardo.zanata@hlrservicos.com.

Best Wishes!

Thanks Leonardo. Let me go through the links and will contact you if need any assistance.

Leonardo Zanata
Ok Mr. Davis. I hope I have helped. Regards. (mr. Ahmed looks a very good referece as well...)
George Skouteris
Regarding water/wastewater quality tests, make use of the standard methods. To start with, find basic information in the following link: http://standardmethods.org/

Thanks George
Ahmed Kotb
Dear could you please define in which purpose this site will be used? Coordinate, maps and other data could be needed some time site visit could also requested .
I am working with Prpf Dr Moustafa Emara SCDREH CENTER http://scdreh.net/national-advisor-committee/ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mostafa_Mahmoud_Emara, We can help for waiting the report after getting data and time should be given becaue I am now in Libya and prof Emara in Egypt some consultation should be arrange for biological test because thisi not our focus interest .
Dear Ahmed,

The site is used construction of a sewage pump station, 13m deep , size 12mx 10m in plan, located in Nabih Saleh, Bahrain. The land is developed by reclamation recently . I just want to known what are the parameters to be tested to prove contamination of soil and water in this site, especially chemical and biological tests
Ahmed Kotb
Dear Davis for major, trace elements and heavy metals please refer WHO AND EPA STANDERS( water contamination)
Engr. Mansoor Ahmed PhD. Scholar
Dear Davis,

Basically while constructing underground, you need to know the Site Soil Investigation Report which in details gives you Soil Starta, Topography, Hydrology (any confined water reservoir) etc. I am wondering why are you looking for chemical & biological tests?
Do you need to know if the sewage water is leaching from pump station to the soil?

1) If so, then first you need investigate from your old file of Soil Investigation Report and to have a recent Soil Investigation Report which will in comparison give you if any changes occurred at the site.
2) You need to conduct the soil and water for the following parameters to check if the soil/water is contaminated or not; Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD), Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD), Microbiological Tests of Soil/Ground Water which will easily give you if the soil/water is contaminated by Sewage (Salmonella, Escherichia Coli E-Coli, B-Coli etc.).

By the way, If this is a reclaimed land and is being already in use for Sewage Pumping Station, what is the reason to test the contamination, does the wet well leaks or does this contaminate any of the water body nearby (which I doubt if any potable water body nearby). As while you do the any bore for desalination, there is always an essential part for disinfection and Pre-treatment to RO.

Anyway, I hope this will help. Should you need any further please do mention.
Mansoor Ahmed
Neha Kakkar
I agree to you.
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