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Discussion Starter #1
I was walking around the 20 acres that I just bought and found a large hole that had been dug with a backhoe or some other large piece of machinery. There was standing water in it and a large number of containers that looked like the kinds of bottles that transmission fluid or oil is sold in. It was only about 75 feet from the well but hidden by vegetation and a mound of soil. Is this something we can recover from? I have not had the well tested yet, but most of the wells dug in our area are over 100 feet deep. Apparently, there was a double wide that burned down in the area some years back. There is also a shop where the previous owners used to work on vehicles. Could I be fined for what previous land owners did?
 

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No you can not be fined for what others did. The best thing that you can do is to drain the water and clean out any trash and then bury it in a place that is not so close to the well. I know this is a big problem for any new landowner to fine on their land. When I bought our land I picled up junk for about 2 years and still don't have it all. Every time I dig up the ground and I then find more junk buried beneith the first few inches of ground.
 

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If you have a pollution site, if the hole was used to dump used or new oil then it is a pollution site, you as the land owner are liable for the costs of clean up. If he weas repairing cars, he could have dumped hundreds of gallons over the years. That can contaminate thousands of cubic yards of soil. The good news is that every property owner and their estate is also liable. A common example is if you were to buy an old gas station. If it were discovered to be contaminated due to fuel tank leaks in the past, every owner, past and present are held responsable for cleanup costs. Then you can go after the previous owner and sue him for damages (your portion of the costs of clean up) if you can prove you didn't do it and that he did. I don't know what I'd do in your case. I'd want my well water tested, but as soon as the Health Department discovers you've got petro products in the groundwater, the EPA is sure to follow. In most cases the soil has to be removed and taken to a proper sealed land fill. Every scoop of earth that has a trace of oil. Can run into the tens of thousands. But the longer it is allowed there, the farther it will seep, adding to the cleanup costs later on. I'd check with a lawyer to see if you can go after the seller for cleanup costs. Disposal of oil into a pit is illegal. Main thing is to make sure you've got someone to hold responsable before anyone knows its there.
 

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Have your well tested. If the previous owner knew about this dump and did not disclose it, he can be held liable for clean up, unless the sale happened with a non-disclosure clause. That seems to only happens when the owner dies and the property is an estate sale.

It may not be that bad. All pollutants are broken down and digested by microbes in the soil, and petroleum products break down fairly quickly. Others take many years. If you get stuck with the clean up yourself, haul the trash out of there, add several different microbial digesters like the stuff for septic tanks, some yeast, and compost starter, then fill in the hole with organic matter like leaves, grass clippings or whatever you have. I was told this by Army Corp of Engineer guys who were doing water and soil testing in my neighborhood.

Whenever there is a hazardous material spill that is cleaned up by removing the soil, they pile the soil in a fenced industrial area. Microbes are not added. Within a year they are using it in roadbed and building site fill.
 

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I am a little surprised that you bought 20 acres without walking the land first. The clean up costs and/or the possible lawsuit costs to force the previous owner clean it up, could cost your more than what you bought the land for.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I did walk the land first. I just walked around what looked like a large mound of dirt that resulted from excavating an area or that someone had deposited to use for leveling an area. The mound is overgrown and not really all that large, so I didn't walk on it until I was using it to level an area myself. When I walked up on it, I realized that someone had hollowed out a hole in the middle of it and filled it with this junk. Just walking around the mound, you would never know that it was hollowed out in the middle.
 

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Well me personally, I'd have the well water tested by a private lab under a different name or address, and if it's clean, then I'd remove all the junk that I reasonably could and dispose of it properly, then fill in the hole and forget you ever knew about it. Don't mention it to anyone. Continue to test the well every so often. If it's a deep well that's properly cased and grouted there should be a very low risk of it becoming contaminated. If it is a shallow dug well I'd reconsider.
 

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knuckledragger said:
I was walking around the 20 acres that I just bought and found a large hole that had been dug with a backhoe or some other large piece of machinery. There was standing water in it and a large number of containers that looked like the kinds of bottles that transmission fluid or oil is sold in. It was only about 75 feet from the well but hidden by vegetation and a mound of soil. Is this something we can recover from? I have not had the well tested yet, but most of the wells dug in our area are over 100 feet deep. Apparently, there was a double wide that burned down in the area some years back. There is also a shop where the previous owners used to work on vehicles. Could I be fined for what previous land owners did?
It's now your land so it's now your baby, the previous owner is most likely protected by the final sale contract.

I would not talk locally about this and would clean it up and test my well.
 

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Rockin In The Free World
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Exactly how big is the hole and exactly how many containers did you see? Are the containers capped, ie. is there fluid still in them or empty? There is a big difference between a 10 foot diameter hole and 50 empty 1 quart containers - and a 100 foot diameter hole with 50,000 containers.

You could always satisfy your curiosity and dig it back up. I wouldn't jump to the conclusion that its buried "hazardous materials" - it may very well be just buried garbage and debris from the fire.

Although I'm no expert, I'd agree with Laura in that much soil contamination can be eliminated through composting. Did I read this in the "Humanure Handbook ????
 

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Discussion Starter #11
The hole is maybe 15 feet in diameter with about 12-15 empty containers. I have talked to a couple of people about it (one who works with the department of environmental quality) and they tend to think from my description that there is not alot to worry about. I hope they are right.
 

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I'm not sure if I agree with the "test your well" recommendation people have been giving you. Those containers could have contained anything. There are probably 100's, if not 1000's, of chemicals that are sold in containers nowadays. Unless you know specifically what was dumped there, the analytical cost of having the water tested for several hundred potential contaminates would be enormous.
 

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knuckledragger said:
I was walking around the 20 acres that I just bought and found a large hole that had been dug with a backhoe or some other large piece of machinery. There was standing water in it and a large number of containers that looked like the kinds of bottles that transmission fluid or oil is sold in. It was only about 75 feet from the well but hidden by vegetation and a mound of soil. Is this something we can recover from? I have not had the well tested yet, but most of the wells dug in our area are over 100 feet deep. Apparently, there was a double wide that burned down in the area some years back. There is also a shop where the previous owners used to work on vehicles. Could I be fined for what previous land owners did?
Fined would depend on the area. I do know that in some areas you could be forced to foot the cost of clean-up. I'd be making a quick call to the lawyer that closed on this for you and ask about disclosure. This is the type of stuff that must be disclosed by the vendor. And yes - I'd be worrying - I'd be wondering about contamination.
 

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Sounds like you got yourself a pig in a poke! How recent was the purchase? Do you have title insurance? not that title insurance would cover this or not.

Ignorance IS Bliss... if you don't test, you don't have to worry about what toxics might be there.

I probably wouldn't drink the water out of the well... unless you're a big fan of nasty medical procedures.

If I ever had plans for any type of independence (owning my own water source, instead of hooking up to a community water system) I'd probably give the place back to the previous owner. Selling to someone else wouldn't be ethical without telling them. Like CF said, the cost of remediation would be more than the land... I've known small spills at gas stations that costs tens of thousands of dollars... they have folks come out in space suits...just like they were dealing with nuclear waste...

If it were my place, I'd get a backhoe and start digging, to see what I could find... minimum take out all of the barrels... then go down several more feet, to see if I could see anything obvious... I'd leave the hole open and check on it after the first rain... any type of film on the water would be an "obvious" sign of badness. :grump:

Unfortunately, it's a risk buying land... at least with a home, nondisclosure is 'frowned' upon, and sometimes grounds for revocation of contract.

Hating chemicals, I'd be royally tee'd off.
 

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I think that you need to call the EPA and get them to have super fun to help you to clean up. That is what some of you are answering. I know the area and know that it is a small area that will not proberly not afect anything that he has in mind. Polution is not something that that is to be sneesed at. You need to clean it up the best way you can, but I think that a shallow hole with 15 botles in it is not something to worry about. I woud get my water tested and see from their whether anything is contaminated. If the water is contaminated then all that is to be done is to drill a new well or hoked up to the water line that runes through his property.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
I purchased the land about 2 and a half months ago. The sellers filled out a disclosure form on it, but nothing like this was mentioned on it.
 

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At a minimum, carefully document its presence immediately. Whether this documentation (Photos including newpapers for date verification) is shared with others is your business. It may prove helpful in the future to establish its presence prior to your purchase.
 

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It SHOULD have been on the disclosure!

And, they knew what was in there: perhaps you could ask them? Though, I am not sure I would trust anything that they said.
 

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You could have the well tested for oil and petroleum contaminants. Since they worked on cars that in most likely what might be buried there. On a side note, when our well was drilled they went through 2 oil pockets before hitting water. Usually as long as the water table is under bedrock, the water is very unlikely to be affected by surface contamination. If in doubt, drill a new well far away from the pit. 1000 feet should be far enough. And try to burn off any oil or oil residue in the pit.
 

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Rockin In The Free World
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12 - 15 empty containers.

Most folks are lazy, so if the containers held fluid, were capped and they were going to bury them anyway, they'd just toss them in the hole. I doubt they'd stand there, empty each one and then toss it.

Even if there are 100 empty quart containers, how much residue fluid does an empty quart container hold? Lets say 1/50 of a quart - meaning you're dealing with 2 whole quarts of whatever was in the 100 containers - and most of that is probably still in the containers.

Although lots of nasty stuff comes in quart plastic bottles - I'd guess that the chances of it being some type of automotive fluid is extremely high - next would be cleaners/solvents and pesticides. I suppose you could get a few of the containers tested - and then test your water (or soil) for whatever was in the containers.

People have been on this planet for a long time - and have dumped everything under the sun either on the land or in the water. It may be that there are folks reading this message who have land that is far more contaminated than yours is - you just happen to have found some empty containers.

Its a sad state when folks are scared of being fined, paying huge sums of cleanup money, legal fees etc. etc. for dumping which they did not do - even if its on land that they now own. Makes you wonder how many folks know that they have large quantities of very dangerous materials buried on their land, and just "keep quiet" about it. Perhaps your neighbour has tons of PCBs buried right on the property line - who knows.
 
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