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Progress in management of contaminated sites

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Amendments compared to previous assessments

Six data collection exercises have been completed since 2001 to support reporting by the EEA of the indicator CSI 015 “Progress in the management of contaminated sites”. Some adjustments and/or adaptations were introduced to the indicator following each previous data collection exercise in the light of experience. As part of the 2011 data collection exercise, two major changes were made.

The 2011 data collection exercise was confined to five key topics. The topics “brownfield management” and “problem areas” were abandoned, due to the very low level of response to data requests in previous exercises. The five key topics retained are:
• management of contaminated sites
• remediation targets and technologies
• contribution of polluting activities to local soil contamination
• environmental impacts
• expenditure.

New parameters were introduced for the indicator “Progress in management of contaminated sites”. In previous data collection exercises, all parameters focused on the management steps (i.e. preliminary study, preliminary investigation, main site investigation, and implementation of risk reduction measures). In the 2011 data collection exercise, parameters on the number of sites were introduced, specifically the parameters “potentially contaminated sites”, “contaminated sites” and “sites under remediation”. The new parameters aim to provide an insight into the current level of management of contaminated sites. As opposed to parameters referring to the management steps, the new parameters do not refer to cumulative total numbers but to the number of sites currently undergoing each management step. For example the number of “potentially contaminated sites” could decrease over time in a country. This could be due to the fact that more and more sites were subject to further investigations and classified as “contaminated sites”.

The 2011 data collection exercise includes a larger geographical area than that of 2006. The 2006 data collection exercise did not include data from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo, Poland, Portugal and Cyprus.

LSI 003 was formerly called CSI 015. LSI stands for 'land and soil indicators' and refers to a thematic cluster of land and soil indicators (under development).


Assessment versions

Published (reviewed and quality assured)

Justification for indicator selection

Emissions of dangerous substances from local sources can have impacts on the quality of soil and water, particularly groundwater. The Core Set Indicator CSI 015 “Progress in management of contaminated sites” aims to assess the adverse effects caused and measures taken to satisfy environmental standards according to current legal requirements.

No legal standards for soil quality have been set at the EU level, but targets have been set by some EEA member countries. In general, legislation aims to prevent new contamination and to set targets for the remediation of sites where environmental standards have already been exceeded.

The CSI 015 indicator tracks progress in the management of contaminated sites, the restriction of land use and use of ground-/surface water as a consequence of contamination, and the provision of public and private money for remediation.

A number of activities that cause soil pollution can be clearly identified across Europe, in particular emissions from industrial activities and waste disposal from municipal and industrial sources. However, the range of polluting activities varies considerably from country to country. Apparent variation may also be the result of differing classification schemes or due to incomplete reporting.

The implementation of existing legislative and regulatory frameworks (e.g. the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Directive, Landfill Directive, Water Framework Directive) helps to prevent new contamination of soil. However, efforts must still be made to deal with historical soil contamination.

Scientific references:

  • No rationale references available

Indicator definition

The term 'contaminated site' (CS) refers to a well-defined area where the presence of soil contamination has been confirmed and this presents a potential risk to humans, water, ecosystems or other receptors. Risk management measures, e.g. remediation, may be needed depending on the severity of the risk of adverse impacts to receptors under the current or planned use of the site.

The term 'potentially contaminated site' (PCS) refers to sites where unacceptable soil contamination is suspected but not verified, and where detailed investigations need to be carried out to verify whether there is an unacceptable risk of adverse impacts on receptors.

Both of these parameters were introduced for the first time in the 2011 data request. The scale of soil contamination was also assessed in previous data requests but results were derived from other parameters (in particular the four key management steps); an approach that was abandoned in the 2011 data request.

Management of contaminated sites aims to assess and, where necessary, reduce the risk of adverse impacts on receptors to an acceptable level. This management process starts with a basic desk study or historical investigation, which may lead to more detailed site investigations and, depending on the outcome of these, remediation measures.

The indicator shows progress in four key management steps: preliminary study/site identification, preliminary investigation, main site investigation, and implementation of risk reduction measures.

Under each management step, two stages can be distinguished: estimation of the number of sites in need of this specific step, and actual counting or completion of this specific management step.

In addition, the indicator reports the costs to society of site management, the main activities responsible for soil contamination and the outcomes of managing contaminated sites.


  • Number of sites managed (or requiring management), at the different management steps
  • Percentage of sites: sites where a specific management step is completed over the estimated total number of sites in need of this specific management step
  • Expenditure is provided in EUR per capita per year and million EUR per gross domestic product (GDP), expressed in billion EUR
  • Contribution of economic activities to soil contamination is calculated in terms of the percentage of sites in which the activity is present over the total number of investigated sites
  • Percentage of sites per risk reduction measure undertaken by each country

Policy context and targets

Context description

The overarching policy objective is to achieve a level of quality of the environment where man-made contaminants on sites do not give rise to significant impacts on or risks to human health and ecosystems.

Legal requirements for the general protection of soil have not been agreed at the European Union (EU) level and only exist in some Member States. However, the Integrated Pollution and Prevention Control Directive (IPPC 2008/1/EC) requires that operations falling under its scope do not create new soil contamination, and legislation not aimed directly at soil protection (e.g. the Water Framework Directive (WFD 2000/60/EC), the Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC) and Landfill Directive (99/31/EC)) provides indirect controls on soil contamination and requirements for its management where applicable. Furthermore, the Directive on Industrial Emissions (IED 2010/75/EU) provides a regulatory framework to prevent emissions to soil from large industrial plants; it will repeal the IPPC Directive with effect from 7 January 2014. Notwithstanding these and similar controls in non-EU Member States, significant new site contamination still occurs as a result of accidents and illegal activities.

While the creation of new contaminated sites is constrained by regulation, a very large number of sites exist with historical contamination that may present unacceptable risks, and these sites need to be properly managed.


No European targets to reduce local soil contamination have yet been established. National targets exist in many EEA member and cooperating countries. The table provides an overview of existing national/regional targets. These take a variety of forms, for example by referencing timelines for remediation of historic contamination or specific management steps or lists of national priority sites. Since the last data request in 2006, nine countries have established new policy targets relating to the management of contaminated sites and in total 17 countries report official policy targets for the management of contaminated sites.

Overview of existing policy targets for local soil contamination.



Policy or technical target



Identification of contaminated sites completed
Essential part of the contaminated sites problem should be managed

Remediation and re-integration of identified contaminated sites into economic and natural cycle

Belgium (Flanders)


Remediation started on sites with potentially contaminating activities and/or that are considered to be contaminated



Remediation of "hot spots", locations in the environment which are highly burdened with waste

Czech Republic


Political/technical level [government decree]: Environmental remediation of uranium and coal facilities DIAMO



Site identifications and preliminary investigations are completed nationwide



All contaminated areas to be remediated or sustained



Handling of all historic contaminated sites. The Gov. Decision No. 2205/1996. (VIII.24.) adopted the National Environmental Remediation Programme (OKKP), which has three stages: short, medium and long.

Kosovo under UNSCR 1244/99


Drafting of land cadastre and developing monitoring system
Re-cultivation and adequate use of agricultural land

Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia


Implementation of the closure/remediation measures for the top three hotspots from the annex 1



Recovery and/or closure of existing dumpsites, remediation of hot-spots (contaminated sites), construction of regional sanitary landfills



Bringing risk at sites to an acceptable level for the current land use
Handling of sites at risk with current land use



Handling of (approx. 250) sites completed, where pollution is shown to be most serious, i.e. where pollution is released to priority areas or can pose a human health risk



Environmental remediation of the majority of polluted areas



Priority list for remediation will be established.
20% of priority sites should be remediated.



Remediation of the contaminated sites with the highest risk to human health and environment (to reach "good status of water" with respect to the Water Framework Directive)



Environmental objective: a non-toxic environment
Remediation of priority sites by 2010
Other contaminated sites contained or remediated by 2050 at the latest



Remediation or containment of historic soil contamination

Sources: Eionet data flows 2006 and 2011

Note: new policy targets (since the last assessment in 2007) are highlighted; outdated policy targets have been deleted

Related policy documents

  • COM (2002) 179 final
    Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament, the European Economic and SocialCommittee and the Committee of the Regions: Towards a thematic strategy for soil protection.COM (2002) 179 final
  • Directive 99/31/EC on landfill of Waste
    Directive 99/31/EC on landfill of Waste
  • Directive 2010/75/EC on industrial emissions (integrated pollution prevention and control)
    The IED is the successor of the IPPC Directive and in essence, it is about minimising pollution from various industrial sources throughout the European Union. Operators of industrial installations operating activities covered by Annex I of the IED are required to obtain an integrated permit from the authorities in the EU countries. About 50.000 installations were covered by the IPPC Directive and the IED will cover some new activities which could mean the number of installations rising slightly.
  • Soil Thematic Strategy, COM(2006) 231
    Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions - Thematic Strategy for Soil Protection [SEC(2006)620] [SEC(2006)1165]
  • Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC)
    Directive 2008/98/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 November 2008 on waste and repealing certain Directives (Text with EEA relevance)
  • Water Framework Directive (WFD) 2000/60/EC
    Water Framework Directive (WFD) 2000/60/EC: Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2000 establishing a framework for Community action in the field of water policy.


Methodology for indicator calculation

The indicator methodology is given per (set of) sub-indicator(s), each of which is/are responding to a specific policy question. The quality of the sample per sub-indicator was each time assessed, including in relation to the area (geographical coverage) and population surveyed (EEA-39); details of which are given in Van Liedekerke et al. (2014).

Estimated extent of soil contamination. Countries provided estimates of the number of potentially contaminated sites (PCSs) and estimates of the number of contaminated sites (CSs). Average values derived from these data (e.g. 4.2 potentially contaminated sites per 1 000 inhabitants and 5.7 contaminated sites per 10 000 inhabitants) were related to the population of the whole surveyed area (604.5 million). This approach is different from the one used for the data collected in 2006 (published 2007), where the estimated number of PCSs and CSs as well as the extrapolations were based on data for the various management steps.

Progress in the management and control of soil contamination. Countries provided numbers of potentially contaminated sites (PCSs) identified, contaminated sites (CSs) identified, and remediation measures completed/remediated sites. Countries also provided the number of sites at each management/processing steps. Progress was assessed against data reported in 2006. In addition, countries indicated whether their management step classification system had been revised, and whether they had targets for the respective steps. Further, countries reported whether they had inventories of sites with soil contamination, and indicated whether these were organised at a national or regional level. Finally, the most frequently applied remediation techniques were reported (as %) following a pre-set range of categories.

Polluting activities and sectors, and contaminants. Countries provided percentage contributions of local sources (activities or sectors) to the total number of contaminated sites, as well as of contaminants to local soil contamination. Respective averages were calculated for the selection of countries that replied to the respective questions.

Expenditure. Countries provided annual remediation expenditures (in million euros), as well as the breakdown (in %) between public and private. Expenditure data were subsequently transformed in EUR per capita and per unit of gross domestic product (in pro mille). Countries directly provided data on shares (%) of total expenditure spent on the different management steps, as well as on shares (%) of pre-set cost categories for site investigation and risk reduction/remediation measures, respectively. Lastly, countries reported whether or not they had funding mechanisms for orphan sites in place, and if so, at which level (national or regional).

Methodology for gap filling

Generally, for questions on targets, inventories and management steps, data from different data collections were combined. Whenever this was the case, it is explicitly mentioned in the table or graph. If no other data sources than EIONET 2011 are indicated, only the data of the countries that reported in 2011 were taken into account.

Progress in the management and control of local soil contamination - Identified sites. If data from the 2011 EIONET data collection exercise were not available, data from previous data collections were used. Matching the 2011 data (number of identified sites) with the 2006 data (number of identified sites derived from the management steps) was done as follows: PCS = number of completed preliminary investigations (or site identifications), CS = number of completed main site investigations; RS = number of measures completed.

Methodology references

No methodology references available.

Data specifications

EEA data references

  • No datasets have been specified here.

External data references

Data sources in latest figures


Methodology uncertainty


There is no commonly used definition for dealing with contaminated sites. Although a definition is introduced within this indicator, it might occur that various countries run their specific contaminated site management system in different ways and their management steps for example do not fit perfectly to that definition. More specifically:

- Estimated extent of local soil contamination. In general, the results reveal that the term “potentially contaminated site” and “contaminated site” are differently understood and interpreted. Whereas some countries focus on large sites of national concern, other countries are more complete in their data collection and include small sites (e.g. leaking underground storage tanks).

- Progress in the management and control of local soil contamination - Identified sites. Also the four management steps are understood and interpreted differently between countries. For example, countries of similar size and industrialisation with management systems for local soil contamination report figures on the number of remediated sites that differ by a factor 10.

Aggregated data at European level are strongly influenced by the number of countries that provided data. Where data are not available for the same reference year, the figures presented may refer to data that are at least 6 years older.

The greater uncertainty is associated to estimates (e.g. estimated number of contaminated sites), usually based on expert judgement.

Not sufficiently clear methodology and data specifications may have induced countries to interpret data specifications in different ways. This has resulted in data and information that may not be fully comparable. This problem has been progressively solved as better specifications have been introduced in the questionnaire. As a result quality of data is gradually improving. Nevertheless, the data specification/questionnaire requires further revision.

Data sets uncertainty


Geographical and time coverage on European level:

·         Not all countries have been included in the calculations of the indicator (due to unavailability of data).

·         Some countries are lacking behind in their management of contaminated sites, whereas other countries have made huge progress already.

·         The data available so far allow evaluating limited time trends. With a time series of the management steps, and now also estimated and identified sites, a very good indication of the progress made in the individual countries is given. Exactly these data should be compared assessing progress over time.

Representativeness of data on national level:

Most of the data integrate information from the whole country. However the process greatly differs from country to country depending on the degree of decentralisation. Also in countries with decentralised systems, the coordination may be different. In general the quality and representativeness of the data increases with the centralisation of the information.

Rationale uncertainty

There is no common definition of contaminated sites agreed at the European level. For the purpose of this indicator, the following working definitions have been proposed.

The term 'contaminated site' (CS) refers to a well-defined area where the presence of soil contamination has been confirmed and this presents a potential risk to humans, water, ecosystems or other receptors. Risk management measures, e.g. remediation, may be needed depending on the severity of the risk of adverse impacts to receptors under the current or planned use of the site.

The term 'potentially contaminated site' (PCS) refers to sites where unacceptable soil contamination is suspected but not verified, and where detailed investigations need to be carried out to verify whether there is an unacceptable risk of adverse impacts on receptors.

Both of these parameters were introduced for the first time in the 2011 data request. The scale of local soil contamination was also assessed in previous data requests but results were derived from other parameters (in particular the four key management steps as elaborated below); an approach that was abandoned in the 2011 data request.

Due to evolving management practices in the various countries, countries may provide certain estimates in one year and come up with estimates based on a different logic (e.g. in distinguishing between the distinct management steps) in the following reporting year. This can among others depend on the status of completion of national inventories (e.g. at the beginning of registration not all sites are included, but after a more accurate screening the number of sites may increase). Therefore the information has to be interpreted and presented carefully, taking into account all the uncertainties, problems of data comparability and other specific aspects mentioned above.

Cost estimates of remediation are difficult to obtain, especially from the private sector. Therefore the information provided is partial. Breakdown of cost estimates (investigation, remediation) improves data comparability across countries.

Further work

Short term work

Work specified here requires to be completed within 1 year from now.

Long term work

Work specified here will require more than 1 year (from now) to be completed.

General metadata

Responsibility and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Geertrui Veerle Erika Louwagie


Joint Research Centre (JRC)
European Environment Agency (EEA)


Indicator code
LSI 003
Version id: 2
Primary theme: Soil Soil


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Frequency of updates

Updates are scheduled every 5 years in January-March (Q1)


DPSIR: Response
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)

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European Environment Agency (EEA)
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1050 Copenhagen K
Phone: +45 3336 7100