Construction Sites Pollution
Construction sites are found both within urban and rural areas, often in the close proximity of homes. Due to their proximity to homes and the materials used, construction sites may generate home pollution. This involves air, water, soil, and/or noise pollution. Additionally, construction work may reveal existing subsurface pollution. In such situation, construction work is stopped and costly remediation is needed. Thus, construction work may generate construction pollution problems affecting both homeowners and construction site owners. Moreover, construction workers (especially in the past) may be exposed to pollution. These aspects will be discussed in more details below, along with tips and measures to prevent and face pollution, as well as to recover the costs.
If you live in a home close to a construction site (i.e., within 1 block or less) you may face the following type of pollution:
- Air pollution - the air you breathe may be polluted due to the construction work. Apart from the noise, poor air quality is the most immediate pollution effect you may experience from a construction site. This means that airborne contaminants including contaminated particulate matter and volatile compounds are spreading around (mostly carried by wind) in the surrounding neighborhood (the main wind direction will influence the area most affected by air pollution around a construction site). Contaminants spreading around in air can travel large distances in a short time. The main construction contaminants that spread around by wind include PM10 (particulate matter with a diameter less than 10 microns generating polluted dust), PAHs bound to particulate matter, VOCs (volatile organic compounds), asbestos, gases such as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen oxides.
- Water pollution - the surface water runoff and the groundwater close to a construction site become polluted with various materials used in the construction work. As described for air pollution above, the following construction contaminants can pollute the water: VOCs, paints, glues, diesel, oils, other toxic chemicals, and cement. The immediate effect is creating turbidity in the runoff water and affected surface and groundwater (since some of the runoff water may infiltrate in the subsurface reaching the groundwater. In fact, both groundwaters below your home and surface runoff close to your home may constitute a source of pollution emanating from the construction sites. Domestic animals and pets may drink contaminated water and soil may become contaminated too. Additionally, once the groundwater below your home becomes contaminated, it may affect you in the following ways: through direct consumption if you use water from a property well, and indirectly by affecting the quality of your indoor air (vapor intrusion of the volatile contaminants from water). Overall, water pollution from construction sites is underestimated and has potential to generate severe environmental problems.
- Soil pollution - soil at and around a construction site may become contaminated due to air transport followed by deposition of construction contaminants (listed at air pollution) as well as water runoff of construction contaminants (as listed for water pollution). Soil may constitute a sink for pollutants and some of those may accumulate in soil and persist over longer periods of time (e.g., PAHs).
- Noise pollution - noise is usually associated with construction work although modern preventive measures may substantially reduce the amount of noise (in the neighboring community). Noise may adversely affect your health, including effects such as stress, sleep disturbance, high blood pressure and even hearing loss.
Construction pollution involves the following main types of construction work:
- Building construction pollution - represents the generation of construction contamination at sites where buildings are constructed which may involve also a demolition phase (if the construction site has an existing building)
- Road construction pollution - represents the generation of construction contamination at sites where roads are built
Construction Pollution Prevention and Cost Recovery
- Personal damage. From the perspective of the public, the best prevention is to spend as little time as possible outside (e.g., in your yard or balcony) close to a construction site during operation time. Additionally, having a rich vegetation around your home (and between the home and the construction site) will act as a natural filter for the generated pollution, reducing the amount of pollution you may come in contact with. So, planting in your yards or even potted plants in a balcony can help. The greener the better. Also, regular spraying of water around the home will reduce the amount of dust and exposure through inhalation, although the soil and water pollution may increase (but these are affecting you less directly than air!). However, if you believe you are already negatively impacted by a construction site in the vicinity, especially if you have been recently diagnosed with a medical condition involving the respiratory system, you may be entitled to compensation.
- Property damage. From the perspective of the construction site owner / developer, you may be faced with building on polluted land (pollution could be discovered during construction excavation work). To prevent such situation, you should order a full land quality survey (environmental site assessment phase 1 and 2) before starting any construction work. However, if this is not possible and you are faced with building on polluted land, you may be able to recover remediation costs from the original polluters. In this situation, specialized forensic investigations and legal advice (using top specialized legal firms) are recommended.