When a buyer purchases a new home, they assume everything about it is clean, perfect, and unspoiled. In most cases -- it is even your legal right to assume this.

But not everything is as it seems. What was your home built on?

"Soil, earth, ground, etc," you reply. My answer to you, "Yes and no."

Often, developers of new homes need to fill in depressions on the property, or level off large amounts of the property for landscaping or storm water run-off purposes.

Sometimes, even small amounts of wetlands can be filled for the purpose of construction. In every one of these cases, "fill" is necessary.

Soil is brought in from various regions -- local or remote -- in order to level out the land. In many parts of the country, there is a procedure where the soil must be certified as clean -- and in most cases every effort is made to ensure that the soil used to fill the void is free of harmful chemicals or contaminants. But what is "tainted fill"?

Tainted fill is fill that has been adulterated. It may have come from an industrial facility or even from a hazardous clean up site. It may even contain pulverized construction debris (which can be very harmful).

What is tainted fill? Tainted fill is soil that is contaminated with some kind of harmful contaminant. Instead of being clean, it is contaminated and potentially harmful. To save money, developers sometimes use tainted fill. Indeed, throughout the US, people are learning that their homes, their schools and their office buildings sit atop tainted fill.

Its just soil, you say. But in fact tainted fill can have some amazingly frightening effects. It may affect the groundwater and cause it to become contaminated. It may contain volatile organic substances that may be able to bleed through the foundation of buildings and thereby place persons inside the buildings at risk for exposure to harmful contaminants. And if the soils are moved at the site with heavy equipment and adequate protective measures are not taken, dust clouds from the movement of the tainted fill can make people who live or work within the vicinity very ill.

Be a responsible builder, buyer, and homeowner. Do some research and find out where your soil is coming from. A few simple questions could alleviate major headaches down the line.

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