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So, let's say, ~completely theoretically~ you knew, beyond a reasonable doubt, a large oil company was doing something nefarious near you. They own a very strange property through a shell company. Now, it's possible that it's just some kind of tax evasion-they claimed it was a "beautification" project after you emailed several people with no response-but all they've done is stack dirt piles very high. This completely theoretical property also just happens to be completely devoid of plant life, and according to the NPMS there is a pipeline nearby. Would an elevated level of carbon in the soil potentially be indicative of contamination by hydrocarbons? If not, is there any other way to test for this? Sorry if this is the wrong place to post this kind of question, but I couldn't really find anywhere else :)

Also, I know it's probably not an oil spill, but I do have evidence that there's something going on and I'm just trying to rule this out. Thank you!

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Being devoid of plant life can be due to a number of reasons: purposely sprayed with herbicides, sub soil salt rising to or near the surface or possibly a mass leak of hydrocarbons. Are there any salt scars? Is the ground totally clear of any form of vegetation, including dead plants that once lived there?

The other reason for no plant life is the land was purposely cleared using heavy equipment such as bulldozers or graders. The land may have been purposely cleared for other reasons: preparations for drilling of the site, to erect buildings or a similar facility or to accommodate soil heaps, as you have indicated. Do the soil heaps appear to be local soil from the site that has been removed and stockpiled or does it look like soil from elsewhere? How many dumps are there and what would you estimate to be the size of the dumps: length, width and height?

Any carbon in the soil could be natural, it could be charcoal that has been plowed in. It is unlikely that any hydrocarbon would have "decomposed/disintegrated" leaving carbon in the ground and hydrogen to escape to the atmosphere. If there were oil related hydrocarbons in the soil and it was in such quantities to kill the vegetation that was there you would possibly be able to smell it from the boundaries of the site. If the land was able to be dug one might be able to smell any liquid hydrocarbons in the soil.

As intriguing as your question is, there is not enough detail to give a conclusive answer.

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  • $\begingroup$ Sorry for taking a while to respond-thanks for such an in-depth answer! To answer your questions-there are no salt scars. though I guess I can't rule out herbicides being used. I've seen this property evolve a lot and I remember when it was still full of vegetation. I'm pretty sure it all died and was then removed, though I could definitely be wrong. The soil heaps are made of local soil about 15 meters in diameter, and maybe around 4 meters in height. There are four of them and they all slightly vary in size, but they're pretty close. -Part 1 $\endgroup$
    – Anna Wood
    Apr 21 at 23:42
  • $\begingroup$ I can't smell any hydrocarbons either so I'm leaning towards the soil not being contaminated, and something else is happening. -Part 2 $\endgroup$
    – Anna Wood
    Apr 21 at 23:43

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