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FAQ
 

FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions

Note: some FAQ´s and the respective answers refer, at least in parts, to the Austrian legislation !

on the topic Soil and Waste:

Can soil be a type of waste ?
When is the chemical analysis of soil and waste required?
When is the chemical analysis of excavated soil not necessary?
When is the overall assessment according to the Austrian Landfill Decree not required ?
Why is the chemical analysis of soil and waste necessary at all ?
What is the purpose of a soil, respectively waste analysis ?
What are the expenses required for soil and waste analyses ?
Why should/must the sampling and the assessment be done by the same authorised expert or specialised institution ?
How long does a chemical analysis of soil and waste take ?

on the topic Water:

Why does drinking water need to be analysed ?
Which components are often responsible for the poor quality of the drinking water ?
Can I take the water samples myself and bring them to BIUTEC?
What should I think about sampling sets with self taken water samples sent by post ?



Can soil be a type of waste ?

In Austria, the soil that accumulates during construction activities (e.g. excavation), is basically also subject to the Waste Law (e.g. Waste Management Act, Waste Catalogue Directive, Federal Waste Management Plan) and has to be treated correspondingly. In case limited amounts of excavated soil (max. 7.500 t with less than 5 percent by volume of components that don't belong to the soil) are being re-used in the same area from where they were excavated and if the information about the previous use, respectively the local contamination situation including previous immission situations, do not give any indication about possible pollutions, then there are no special requirements for the rearrangement within the same real estate or on the own construction site (in any case in the same contract section), as long as

•  the visual inspection at excavation does not give any indication about a     contamination,
•  the rearrangement does not change the utilisation purpose,
•  the humus topsoil is collected separately and is used again as topsoil     material,
•  the entire amount of excavated soil that is being moved to a     neighbouring piece of land does not exceed 7.500 t and
•  the builder prepares a corresponding documentation.

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When is the chemical analysis of soil and waste required?

In Austria, the professional disposal and (re-)utilisation of soil and waste is regulated by different norms, e.g. Landfill Decree and Waste Catalogue Directive, Federal Waste Management Plan. All the materials that are subject to the waste legislation (and soil is included) and are considered as waste, have to be included into a waste category that best defines it in general. If the chemical composition needs to be known in order to ascribe the waste to a certain category, this has to be done by professional assessment, based on the results of a chemical analysis.

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When is the chemical analysis of excavated soil not necessary?

In Austria, for excavated soil, that has to be disposed, the classification can be done also without an analytical assessment, if no contamination is to be suspected because the origin of the soil from a certain location is known (particularly the previous utilisation and the local pollution situation, including previous immission situations) and the visual inspection during excavation (see the provisions for small quantities of the Landfill Decree).
In the Federal Waste Management Plan 2001, part: guidelines for the off-site disposal of waste and treatment principles, amended by the modification of the waste catalogue directive from April 2005, there is a small amounts regulation for the utilisation of excavated soil (Chapter 3.19.1.1 c.). If a construction project does not involve more than 2.000 t of excavation material and if, based on the assessment, the origin of the excavated soil is known (particularly the previous use and local situation of contamination, including previous immission situations) and the visual inspection during excavation gave no indication of a possible contamination, the analytical assessment is not required, if the harmlessness of the utilisation is properly documented.
In both cases the assignment of the excavated soil to a certain waste category has to be done according to the corresponding provisions of the Waste Catalogue Directive.

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When is the overall assessment according to the Landfill Decree not required ?

The Austrian Landfill Decree includes in § 7 para. 1 certain provisions for the overall assessment of waste. According to these - under certain conditions stipulated in § 7 para. 1 - no overall assessment is required.

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Why is the chemical analysis of soil and waste necessary at all ?

A professional and experienced chemist can already make the first assessment when taking the sample as far as the properties and harmful substances content of the soil or waste is concerned as well as the type of waste. Yet countless harmful substances are not easily noticeable, particularly when they are in a diffuse form. This is why the chemical analysis in the laboratory is necessary, as is it provided for instance in the Austrian Landfill Decree.

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What is the purpose of a soil, respectively waste analysis ?

Based on the results of the analysis, the best ecological and economical disposal or (re-)utilisation option can be found, taking into account all the legal specifications.

The following questions can be relevant:

•  classification of waste and assignment to a waste type/category
•  admissibility to the landfill
•  long term behaviour at the landfill
•  observance of the regulations for backfilling and recultivation
•  for sewage sludge: admissibility for utilisation in agriculture
•  for compost: quality criteria for utilisation
•  adequacy of waste for special treatment methods and treatment plants
•  development and optimisation of waste related procedures
•  material flow balance
•  for presumably contaminated sites and abandoned sites: identification,     analysis, assessment and remediation

The evaluation of the test results is done in form of expert's reports, overall expert assessment (assessment according to the national landfill directive), hazardousness assessment or inspection reports.

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What are the expenses required for soil and waste analyses ?

The basic rule is: the expenses are the higher the

•  less forefront information is available
•  more complex the composition of the waste is (degree of     heterogenity, mixture of various waste)
•  more complex the location relationships are, where often the     complexity is increasing in the subsequent order: agriculture,     residential area < urban agglomeration < industrial agglomeration <     simple commercial or industrial site with (long term) unchanged     utilisation < more complex commercial or industrial site with long term     more often changed utilisation
•  more detailed information on the contamination has to be provided,     where the complexity is increasing in the subsequent order: analysis of     the average contamination degree < maximum value determination <     analysis of the spatial distribution of the pollutants.

The complexity of the sampling process (density of sampling points, number of samples and qualified samples) is specified by the national norms, e.g. based on CEN/TC 292, in Austria ÖNORM S 2121: sampling from soil for waste analyses, ÖNORM S 2123 Part 1-5: sampling plans for waste, and is done according to certain criteria like the amount of waste, type, state (e.g. pile, fluid waste), the largeness of the site and the presumed distribution of the pollutant.

In Austria for the chemical analysis at least 1 sample (field sample, collected sample, qualified sample) for each inchoate 1.500 t is basically foreseen. In order to make an overall assessment the number can be reduced to 1 analysed sample for each 7.500 t, if the overall assessment is done before the beginning of the excavation or demolition works.

The experience shows that in general the costs for the analysis of a larger number of samples are more than balanced by the savings from the disposal expenses.

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Why should/must the sampling and the assessment be done by the same authorised expert or specialised institution ?

The sampler provides, based on the preliminary assessment of the material, important information for the further assessment of the material that is analysed. Based on the waste description, the analyses required for the assessment can be decided, respectively they can be reduced to the minimum requirements. The information is also valid for verifying the plausibility of the test results.
In order to make an overall assessment according to the Austrian Landfill Decree, respectively for the assessment of the (re-)utilisation adequacy, the sampling, the majority of the analyses and the overall assessment must be done by the same authorised expert or specialised institution.

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How long does a chemical analysis of soil and waste take ?

On the first working day the extraction, pulping and water extraction (eluate) are done. According to the norms, the metal extracts have to be stored for several hours.
The preparation of an eluate is done through the lixiviation of the sample material in water for 24 hours. Because some harmful substances that may be present in the water only have a low stability in water solution, so the analysis has to be done at the end of the 24 hours, the eluates are only taken into routine operation between Monday and Thursday.
The test results for individual analysis parameters are checked if they are formally right and plausible. If the data is formally right but not plausible, the test is repeated. Based on the test results it may be necessary, for the further assessment, to increase the extent of the analyses.
Normally, the chemical analyses including the subsequent assessment take in average 7 working days, and in case of a large number of samples, a wide range of analyses, or a more complex problem in average 10 working days.

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Why does drinking water need to be analysed ?

Drinking water is destined for human consumption and has to be appropriate, so that it can be drunk or used without any risk for the human health. This happens when the microorganisms, parasites and any kind of substances present in the water are not in a number or concentration that would be a potential risk for the human health. In Austria, the corresponding minimum requirements and limit values are established in the Annex 1 of the drinking water regulation.

Usually the domestic drinking water that is supplied through the public network is regularly analysed at the request of the water provider (water plants, associations, etc.) by authorised experts or specialised institutions.
Many households, particularly in the rural area, obtain the drinking water from their own private wells. In order to make sure that this drinking water does not present any health risk (possibly in the long term), the private wells also need to be regularly tested.
The tap water can also contain harmful substances. There are still buildings in which all the water pipes or just parts of them are made of lead. Particularly when it stagnates for a longer time in such pipes, the water can have a high lead concentration.

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Which components are often responsible for the poor quality of the drinking water ?

Generally speaking, the drinking water in Austria has a very good, even excellent quality. Nevertheless, local contaminations of the drinking water may occur. To the most frequent harmful components belong:

Component: Origin: Harmful effect:
Nitrate Fertilisers in agriculture Oxygen deficiency in the blood (methemoglobinemia) of babies and small children
Bacteria (e.g. coliform bacteria, Escherichia coli, Enterococci) Bacteriological pollution by excrements Diarrhoea, vomiting, indication of possible incidence of other pathogenic germs
Pesticides (e.g. triazines) Use of pesticides in agriculture Different, corresponding to each particular substance: impairment of the central nervous system, circulation, kidneys, liver, hormone- and immune system possible;
Partially carcinogenic, fruit damaging, mutagenic
Lead Lead pipes in the supply network Impairment of the central nervous system, circulation, kidneys, synthesis of haemoglobin

Isolated contaminations of the drinking water may occur in very industrial areas and in the down-stream of abandoned sites. In these areas there are often high pollutions with hydrocarbons (aliphatic, aromatic and halogenated) or heavy metals.

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Can I take the water samples myself and bring them to BIUTEC?

In order to carry out an officially recognised drinking water analysis, the Austrian Drinking Water Regulation stipulates that both the sampling and the analyses have to be done by an authorised person (according to § 50 of the Law for Foodstuffs 1975).
Along with the professional sampling of water to the sampling process belongs also the verification of the water treatment installations through local visual inspection (including the water dispenser and socket area) by appropriately qualified staff.
The water samples have to be transported professionally and cooled. For stability reasons, certain parameters (e.g. nitrate) have to analysed within 24 hours from the sampling time. According to the experience, these requirements can hardly be fulfilled when the samples are transported by the clients or sent by post.

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What should I think about sampling sets with self taken water samples sent by post ?

Some competitors offer sampling sets for dinking water analysis. The transport of the samples taken by the clients themselves is done by post.

Water samples have to be professionally taken, if necessary stabilised and kept in a cool place during transport. For stability reasons, certain parameters (e.g. nitrate) have to be analysed within 24 hours from the sampling time. According to the experience, these requirements can hardly be fulfilled when the clients send the samples by post and they cannot be guaranteed. The obtained test results have therefore only as more or less realistic benchmarks and the values are not officially recognised. Most of the time, the indication that the analysis does not fulfil the requirements of the drinking water regulation is in "small print".

Only the combination between professional sampling (including on-site findings) by an authorised institute (e.g. §50 of the Austrian Law for Foodstuffs) and professional fast transport of the samples to the laboratory guarantee correct measuring results and officially recognised results and assessments.

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