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You are here: Home / Data and maps / Indicators / Progress in management of contaminated sites / Progress in management of contaminated sites (CSI 015/LSI 003) - Assessment published Jul 2005

Progress in management of contaminated sites (CSI 015/LSI 003) - Assessment published Jul 2005

Indicator Assessment Created 19 May 2005 Published 29 Jul 2005 Last modified 28 Oct 2013, 01:44 PM
Topics: , , ,

Generic metadata

Topics:

Soil Soil (Primary topic)

Chemicals Chemicals

Industry Industry

Tags:
terrestrial environment | csi | groundwater | contamination
DPSIR: Response
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
Indicator codes
  • CSI 015
  • LSI 003
Geographic coverage:
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom
 
Contents
 

Indicator definition

The term 'contaminated site' refers to a well-delimited area where the presence of soil contamination has been confirmed. The severity of the impacts to ecosystems and human health can be such that remediation is needed, specifically in relation to the current or planned use of the site. The remediation or clean-up of contaminated sites can result in a full elimination or in a reduction of these impacts.

The term "potentially contaminated site" includes any site where soil contamination is suspected but not verified and detailed investigations need to be carried out to verify whether relevant impacts exist.

Management of contaminated sites is designed to ameliorate any adverse effects where impairment of the environment is suspected or has been proved, and to minimize any potential threats (to human health, water bodies, soil, habitats, foodstuffs, biodiversity etc.). Management starts with a basic desk study or historical investigation, which may lead to more detailed investigations, remediation or land redevelopment.

The indicator shows progress in five main steps:
1) preliminary study; 2) preliminary investigation; 3) main site investigation; 4) implementation of risk reduction measures.

The indicator also shows the costs to society of the clean-up, the main activities responsible for soil contamination and the achievements managing the contaminated sites.

Units

  • Number of sites managed/to be managed at different management steps.
  • Percentage of sites where risk reduction measures are completed and where need for remediation measures is estimated related to the estimated total number of sites to be identified by surveys
  • Expenditures are provided in million euro per capita per year and million euro per GDP.
  • Contribution of economic activities to soil contamination is calculated in terms of percentage of sites where the activity is present over the total number of investigated sites.
  • Percentage of sites per risk reduction measure undertaken by each country.

Key policy question: How is the problem of contaminated sites being addressed (clean-up of historical contamination and prevention of new contamination)?

Key messages

Several economic activities are still causing soil pollution in Europe, particularly those related to inadequate waste disposal and losses during industrial operations. It is expected that the implementation of preventive measures introduced by the legislation already in place would limit the inputs of contaminants into the soil in the coming years. As a consequence, most of the future management efforts will be concentrated on the clean-up of historical contamination. This is going to require large sums of public money which at present already account on average for 25% of the total remediation expenditure.

Main contaminants at industrial and commercial sites affecting soil in Europe as % of total

Note: Countries included: Italy, Czech Rep

Data source:

EIONET priority data flow, September 2003.

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Overview of progress in control and remediation of soil contamination by country

Note: Progress is expressed in terms of degree of completeness of activities in each management step as compared to the estimated number of sites to be processed at each management step

Data source:

EIONET priority data flow, September 2003. Data for 1999 and 2000: for EU countries and Liechtenstein: pilot EIONET data flow, January 2002; for Accession countries: data request new EEA member countries, February 2002.

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Annual expenditures on contaminated sites remediation by country

Note: (a) Romania: data from 1997 and 2000 (b) Slovenia: data from 1999 and 2001 (c) Germany: projection from estimates of expenditures from some of the "Laender" d) Data for Belgium refer to Flanders

Data source:

(a) Germany: projection from estimates of expenditures from some of the "Laender". (b) Slovenia: data from 1999 and 2001. (c) Romania: data from 1997 and 2000.

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Soil polluting activities from localised sources as % total sites where (preliminary or main) site investigation has been completed

Note: (a) Liechtenstein: 'others' only refer to accidents; minor accidents are not included

Data source:

EIONET priority data flow, September 2003. For Denmark, Germany, Lithuania, Netherlands, Spain: Pilot EIONET data flow, January 2002; for Romania: data request new EEA member countries, February 2002.

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Key assessment

Several main local sources of soil contamination can be clearly identified across Europe (Fig. 1). In most of the countries for which data are available, these are specifically related to the inadequate disposal of waste, losses during industrial and commercial operations and the oil industry (extraction and transport). However, the range of polluting activities and their importance vary considerably in each country. These variations may show different industrial and commercial structures, different classification systems or incomplete information available.

A broad range of industrial and commercial activities have had impacts on soil through the release of a broad variety of different pollutants . Heavy metals, mineral oil, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH),  chlorinated hydrocarbons and aromatic hydrocarbons are reported to be the main contaminants causing soil contamination from local sources at industrial and commercial sites (Fig. 2). Globally, these contaminants alone affect 90% of contaminated sites, while their relative contribution may vary greatly from country to country.

The implementation of existing legislative and regulatory frameworks (such as the  Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Directive and the Landfill Directive) should result in less new contamination of Europe's soils. However, large efforts from the private and the public sector are still needed to deal with historical contamination.

Large amounts of time and financial resources are in fact required to carry out the clean-up of contaminated sites.  This is a tiered process, which can be handled at the national, regional or local level, where the final steps (remediation) involve much higher financial and time resources than the first steps (site investigations).
Detailed information on progress in site identification is available, whereas only scarce data are reported on the completion of remediation measures.

In most of the countries for which data are available, site identification activities are generally far advanced, while detailed investigations and remediation are generally progressing slowly (Fig. 3).

Progress in management may vary considerably from country to country, although comparisons are difficult to make and data should be taken with caution.   A high percentage of completion of remediation activities compared to estimated remediation needs in some countries could be interpreted as a far advanced management process. However, in these countries surveys are also incomplete, which may result in an underestimation of the problem.

Due to different legal requirements, degrees of industrialisation, local conditions and approaches, progress in each country (i.e. the numbers of sites treated in each management step) cannot be compared directly.  In general, there is scarce information on remediation measures but improvement in data availability over the years can be observed.

Although most of the countries in Europe have legislative instruments which apply the "polluter-pays" principle for the clean-up of contaminated sites, large sums of public money - on average 25% of total expenses -  have to be provided to fund the necessary remediation activities. This is a common trend across Europe (Fig. 4). Annual expenditures for the full process of clean-up vary from under 2 to 35 Euro per capita per year in the countries analysed in the period 1999-2002. The total amount of private expenditures is unknown.

Even though a considerable amount of money has already been spent on remediation activities, this has been relatively low compared to the total estimated national remediation costs (up to 8 % of the total costs in one case).

Specific policy question: Which sectors contribute most to soil contamination ?

Breakdown of industrial and commercial branches responsible for local soil contamination in selected countries as % of total

Note: Finland: 'oil industry' also includes 'chemical industry'

Data source:

EIONET priority data flow, September 2003.

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Soil polluting activities from localised sources as % total sites where (preliminary or main) site investigation has been completed

Note: (a) Liechtenstein: 'others' only refer to accidents; minor accidents are not included

Data source:

EIONET priority data flow, September 2003. For Denmark, Germany, Lithuania, Netherlands, Spain: Pilot EIONET data flow, January 2002; for Romania: data request new EEA member countries, February 2002.

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Specific assessment

Although the range of polluting activities and their relative importance may vary considerably in each country, several main local sources of soil contamination can be clearly identified across Europe (Fig. 5). In most of the countries for which data are available, these are specifically related to the disposal of waste, losses during industrial and commercial operations and the oil industry (extraction and transport). More in detail, industrial branches such as energy production, chemical industry, metal working industry and oil industry are contributing to more than 50% of total sources of pollution in each country, except in Finland where other industrial branches are more relevant (Fig. 6).

Sources of contamination from former military sites are also relatively important in some countries, such as Lithuania, Norway and Estonia, where these sources are responsible for respectively 30%, nearly 25% and 20% of all cases of local contamination (Fig. 5). However, not all countries analysed include this category in their inventories. On the other hand, mining operations account for 70% of the total sources in Slovenia, more than 20% in Sweden and 10 % in Iceland (Fig. 5).

Many cases of contamination are a legacy of  the past - however ongoing activities may still cause significant impacts to soil. Variations in the range of soil polluting activities reflect the implementation of remedial measures to manage historic contamination on the one hand and the introduction of pollution prevention measures at active facilities on the other. In the future, the implementation of the legislative and regulatory frameworks in place (i.e. Landfill Directive, Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Directive, Water Framework Directive) should result in fewer inputs of contaminants into the environment and into soil in particular that might give rise to severe contamination and in a better control of contamination caused by natural or other events. As a consequence, most of the efforts for remediation are expected to focus on historical contamination.

Specific policy question: How much is being spent on cleaning-up soil contamination ? How much of the public budget is being used ?

Annual expenditures on contaminated sites remediation by country

Note: (a) Romania: data from 1997 and 2000 (b) Slovenia: data from 1999 and 2001 (c) Germany: projection from estimates of expenditures from some of the "Laender" d) Data for Belgium refer to Flanders

Data source:

(a) Germany: projection from estimates of expenditures from some of the "Laender". (b) Slovenia: data from 1999 and 2001. (c) Romania: data from 1997 and 2000.

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Expenditure for contaminated sites remediation in selected countries in the period 1999-2002 as per mille of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

Note: (a) Slovenia: data from 1999 and 2001 (b) Romania: data from 1997 and 2000 (c) Germany: projection from estimates of expenditures from some of the "Laender" (d) Belgium-Flanders: GDP of 1999 (e) Estonia: GDP of 2001

Data source:

2002 data: EIONET priority data flow, September 2003. 1999 and 2000 data: for EU countries and Liechtenstein: pilot EIONET data flow, January 2002; for Accession countries: data request new EEA member countries, February 2002. Eurostat.

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Clean-up expenditures in selected countries in the period 1999-2002 as compared to the estimated total remediation costs

Note: (a) Total expenditures taken from 2000 estimation also for 2002 (b) Netherlands: average value (23.000 - 46.000 Mio Euro) for 1999 and 2000

Data source:

2002 data: EIONET priority data flow, September 2003.

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Breakdown of public and private remediation cost in selected European countries (2002)

Note: N/A

Data source:

EIONET priority data flow, September 2003.

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Specific assessment

Although most of the countries in Europe have legislative instruments which apply the "polluter-pays" principle for the clean-up of contaminated sites, large sums of public money - on average 25% of total expenses -  have to be provided to fund the necessary remediation activities. This is a common trend across Europe (Fig. 7 and 8). Annual expenditures vary from under 2 to 35 Euro per capita in the analysed countries in the period 1999-2002.
Even though a considerable amount of money has already been spent on remediation activities, this has been relatively low compared to the total estimated national remediation costs (up to 8 % of the total costs in one case - Fig. 9).

Data show that:

  • considerable sums of (public and private) money have to be provided to clean-up sites and comply with existing environmental standards (Fig. 7);
  • the priority given to the management of contaminated sites in terms of budget is different across Europe (Fig. 8);
  • annual remediation expenditure in the countries for which data are available have almost been constant in the period 1999 - 2002; although there is a slight trend at increasing the budget (Fig. 7);
  • on average, annual expenditures for the remediation of contaminated sites in the analysed countries  is approx. 0,5 - 1,0 per mille of the GDP (Fig. 8);
  • annual expenditures are on average about 2,5 % of the estimated total remediation costs in the period 1999-2002 and raised to about 4 % in 2002, with a peak of  circa 8 % of the total spent in 1999 and 2002 in Denmark (Fig. 9);
  • on average, approximately 25% of total expenditures derive from public budgets, with a maximum annual share of about 60% of public funds employed in Austria in 2002 (Fig. 10).

In general, all countries apply the "polluter-pays" principle to different extents. The "polluter-pays" principle cannot fully be applied to historic pollution since many legally responsible entities have disappeared or the polluter cannot be identified or is insolvent. Therefore a considerable share of the total remediation costs has to be provided through public funding. Estimates of public expenditures are readily available, however, information on private expenditures are scarce and mainly depend on coarse estimates.

The link between environmental merit and invested budgets are highly dependent on national standards in terms of remediation targets and on local site conditions. In fact, there is a more than 100-fold difference in annual remediation expenditures (public and private) per capita across the reporting countries. These differences do not necessarily reflect a difference in the awareness about this problem, but rather the different environmental standards applied in each country, as well as the specific local conditions and the degree of industrialisation.
However, these comparisons must be taken with caution, due to the difficulties to get the full picture of costs taken up by the private sector for the clean-up of contamination.

Specific policy question: How much progress is being achieved in the management and control of local soil contamination?

Progress in site remediation in selected countries in 2002

Note: Progress in site remediation in surveyed countries (remediated sites related to estimated total number of sites where remediation activities are needed) as of 2002

Data source:

EIONET priority data flow, September 2003.

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Overview of progress in control and remediation of soil contamination by country

Note: Progress is expressed in terms of degree of completeness of activities in each management step as compared to the estimated number of sites to be processed at each management step

Data source:

EIONET priority data flow, September 2003. Data for 1999 and 2000: for EU countries and Liechtenstein: pilot EIONET data flow, January 2002; for Accession countries: data request new EEA member countries, February 2002.

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Status of site identification in selected European countries in 2000 and 2002

Note: N/A

Data source:

For 2002: EIONET priority data flow, September 2003. For 2000: for EU countries and Liechtenstein, Pilot EIONET data flow, January 2002; for Accession countries, data request new EEA member countries, February 2002.

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Estimated total remediation needs compared to estimated total number of sites in preliminary study in 2002

Note: (a) France: mean value of estimated total number of sites regarding preliminary survey in 2000 (b) Romania: minimum value of estimated total number of sites regarding preliminary survey (c) Data refer to identified remediation needs, not to estimated total needs

Data source:

For 2002: EIONET priority data flow, September 2003. For 2000: for EU countries and Liechtenstein: Pilot EIONET data flow, January 2002; for Accession countries: data request new EEA member countries, February 2002.

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Total number of remediated sites in selected European countries in 2000 and 2002

Note: (a) Switzerland: data refer to >100 sites (b) Italy

Data source:

For 2002: EIONET priority data flow, September 2003. For 2000: for EU countries and Liechtenstein: Pilot EIONET data flow, January 2002 for Accession countries: data request new EEA member countries, February 2002.

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Specific assessment

The management of contaminated sites is a tiered process, where the final step (remediation) involves much higher financial and time resources than the first steps (site investigations). Detailed information on progress in site identification is generally available, whereas only scarce data are available concerning further steps such as the completion of remediation measures. 

Progress in the management of contaminated sites varies considerably across Europe (Fig. 11). In most of the countries for which data are available, site identification activities are generally far advanced, while detailed investigations and remediation activities are generally progressing slowly.  It should be noted that progress is mainly made at the preliminary management steps, for which more and better data are available. Nevertheless, a clear improvement in progress along the several processing steps has been observed in the past few years (Fig. 12, 13, 14). 

This improvement implies that countries have been spending considerable sums of public and private money in the management of contaminated sites.

At present, only data concerning the progress of contaminated sites management at a certain point in time is available. As a consequence no trends concerning the reduction of environmental impacts can be derived at this stage.

However, due to different legal requirements, approaches used, the degree of industrialisation and local conditions, the progress achieved in each country, expressed in terms of numbers of sites treated through the different management step, cannot be compared directly.

A high percentage of completion of remediation activities compared to estimated remediation needs in some countries could be interpreted as a far advanced management process (Fig. 11). However, in these countries surveys are also incomplete, which may result in an underestimation of the problem (Fig. 13).

During the period 1999-2002, an increasing trend in the number of expected sites to be processed in all management steps compared to earlier estimates can be observed. On the other hand, two countries (Netherlands and Belgium/Flanders) expect considerably less sites to be remediated as compared to the total number of potentially contaminated sites which have been identified  (Fig. 14). This may be due to the introduction of a better definition of the processing steps, which has resulted in the revision of the initial national estimates in terms of total number of sites to be remediated (Fig. 12 and 13). Several countries have also adjusted their estimates per processing step for the latest reported year according to new definitions and changes in national legislation. If, on the one hand, this has contributed at making national data more comparable across Europe, on the other, comparing data from previous years is not straightforward. 


Specific policy question: Which are the main contaminants affecting soil and groundwater in and around contaminated sites?

Main contaminants at industrial and commercial sites affecting soil in selected countries as % of total

Note: a) Italy: data from only one region (Piemonte) b) Lithuania: others refer to pesticides Several activities can occur together on 1 site (>100%) or can be incomplete (<100%)

Data source:

EIONET priority data flow, September 2003.

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Specific assessment

A broad range of industrial and commercial activities have had impacts on soil through the release of a broad variety of pollutants (Fig. 16). Heavy metals, mineral oil, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), chlorinated hydrocarbons (CHC) and aromatic hydrocarbons (BTEX) are reported to be the main contaminants causing soil contamination from local sources. Their relative contribution may vary greatly from country to country. For example, in terms of occurrences of the specific contaminant in investigated contaminated sites, mineral oil is the major pollutant in the Czech Republic and Italy (more than 45%) and Latvia (25%). Heavy metals are the major pollutant in Sweden (40%) and Belgium-Flanders (35%). Chlorinated hydrocarbons are the most diffuse contaminant in Austria (25%), while cyanide is the most widespread pollutant in the Netherlands (about 20%).

An overall assessment of volume of contaminants across Europe cannot be made at this stage, due to little data available on the volumes of contaminants involved.

Data sources

Policy context and targets

Context description

Main policy objective: to achieve a quality of the environment where the levels of man-made contaminants do not give rise to significant impacts or risks to human health.

 

Legal requirements for the protection of water quality exist at national as well as at EU level whereas for soil no legal standards have been implemented at EU level so far. They only exist in some of the EU countries. In general legislation aims at preventing new contamination and at the same time is setting targets for the re-establishment of already exceeded environmental standards by means of remediation activities.

In the future, implementation of the legislative and regulatory frameworks in place (Landfill Directive, Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Directive, Water Framework Directive) should result in fewer inputs of contaminants into soil that might give rise to severe contamination and in a better control of contamination caused by natural or other events.As a consequence, most of the efforts will be focused on historical contamination.

Targets

No European targets have yet been established. National targets exist in most EEA countries. This information was provided through the EIONET priority data flow 2003.

Country Year Policy or technical target
Austria 2030-2040 Essential part of the contaminated sites problem should be managed .
Belgium (Flanders)

2006

2021

2036

Remediation of the most urgent historical contamination. New contamination to be remediated immediately.

Remediation of urgent historical contamination.

Remediation of other historical contamination causing risk.

Bulgaria 2003-2009 Plan for implementation of Directive 1999/31/EC on Landfill of waste.
Czech Republic 2010 Eliminate the majority of old ecological damage.
France 2005 Establish information system on polluted soil (BASIAS) to provide a complete scope of the sites where soil pollution could be suspected.
Hungary 2050 Handling of all sites. Government Decision No. 2205/1996 (VIII.24.) adopted National Environmental Remediation Programme (OKKP).
Lithuania 2009 Waste disposal to all landfills not fulfilling special requirements should be stopped. All waste landfills not fulfilling special requirements should be closed according to approved regulations.
Malta 2004 Closure of Maghtab and il-Qortin waste disposal sites.
Netherlands 2030 All historical contaminated sites investigated and under control and remediated when necessary.
Norway 2005 Environmental problems on sites with contaminated soil, where investigation and remediation is needed, shall be solved. On sites where further investigation is needed, the environmental state shall be clarified.
Sweden 2020 Environmental quality objective: a non-toxic environment.
Switzerland 2025 The "dirty" heritage of the past should be dealt with in a sustainable way within one generation.
UK (England and Wales) 2007 At a political level, the Environment Agency aims to substantially remediate and/or investigate 80 Special Sites identified under Part IIA Regime (Environmental Protection Act 1990).


Related policy documents

  • COM (2001) 0162 (02)
    Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament: Biodiversity action plans in the areas of conservation of natural resources, agriculture, fisheries, and development and economic co-operation.COM (2001) 0162 (02)
  • 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
  • Commission Decision (2000/479/EC) - EPER
    Commission Decision of 17th July 2000, on the implementation of a European pollutant emission register (EPER) according to Article 15 of Council Directive 96/61/EC concerning integrated pollution prevention and control (IPPC). (2000/479/EC)
  • Council Directive 96/61/EC (IPPC)
    Council Directive 96/61/EC of 24 September 1996 concerning Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC). Official Journal L 257.
  • Directive 99/31/EC on landfill of Waste
    Directive 99/31/EC on landfill of Waste
  • 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

Methodology for indicator calculation

Progress in management of local soil contamination in Europe: the data source identifies the number of sites at each management/processing steps. Data is aggregated considering those countries that provide a complete record for all the management steps. The projection to year 2050 is done on the basis of the annual increase rate calculated for the period 2001-2006. This rate is multiplied by the number of years from 2006 to 2025 (linear trend assumed) and the result is added to the figure of 2006.

Estimated allocation of public and private expenditures for site remediation. This information is directly provided by countries. The European figure is a weighted average based on those countries that provided data. The total annual management expenditure is used to whieght the percentage of public and private expenditures in each country.

Breakdown of local  sources of soil contamination. Countries provide the data in terms of the percentage contributions of the specific sectors to the total number of sites. Percentages are weighted by the number of sites that have gone through site investiagation in order to obtain European shares.

Breakdown of industrial and commercial activities  causing local soil contamination: the data are  provided directly by countries in terms of the percentage contributions of the specific sectors to the total number of sites.

Expenditures on remediation of contaminated sites: raw data (in kEUR) are transformed in EUR per capita and as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product.

Status of completed risk reduction measures. Percentage of remediated sites: [Number of remediated sites]/[Estimated number of potentially polluting activites sites]*100. Percentage of sites where need for remediation measures is estimated: [Estimated number of contaminated sites][Estimated number of potentially polluting activites sites]*100.
 
Main contaminants affecting soil and groundwater. Contaminants are ranked taking into account the number of countries where the contaminant appears as first or second contaminant. Then a score is calulated: [Number of countries as first contaminant]*2 + [Number of cuntries as 2nd contaminant].

 

Methodology for gap filling

The methodology for gap filling depends on the type of figure:
  • Gap filling when time series are not represented. In that case the figure is related to the most recent data request. If data is missed, the most recent data available is used and it is indicated on the notes.
  • Gap filling for estimated number of potantially polluting activity sites  (Figure 1). In certain countries information on sites where preliminary study has been finished and number of remediated sites is available. However, the estimated number of potentially polluting activity sites is missed. In that case the following procedure has been followed:
  1. Countries with complete data set for the reference year has been selected
  2. From 1 aggregated values (number of sites) are computed for all management steps. 
  3. From 2 the ratio  [number of sites where preliminary study has been finished]/ [estimated number of potentially polluting activity sites] is calculated. It can be considered an European average.
  4. The ratio obtained in step 3 is applied to countries where estimated number of potentially polluting activity sites is missing.
  • Gap filling for time series. See the complete description on the reference "Methodology for the projections to year 2025".

Methodology references

No methodology references available.

Uncertainties

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.

Aggregated data at European level is strongly influenced by the number of countries that provided data. Because existing data is not always avaiable for the same reference year, sometimes the figures presented on the indicator cover a time gap of 2 to 4 years.

The greater uncertainty is associated to estimates (e.g. estimated number of contaminated sites), usually based on expert judgement. This uncertainty increases with the projections to year 2025. In that case a linear trend has been assumed, representing probably the maximum that can be reached in that year.

Not sufficiently clear methodology and data specifications may have induced countries to interpret data specifications in different ways and therefore have provided information which 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 has been improving.



Data sets uncertainty

 

Geographical and time coverage on EU 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. Good availability of data at national level where contaminated sites management is centralised .
  • The data available so far allows to evaluate limited time trends. With a time series of the management steps a very good indication of the progress  made in the individual countries is given. And exactly this fact should be compared when looking at an individual country over a certain period of time

Representativeness of data on national level:

  • Most of the data integrates 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 increses with the centralisation of the information.

Comparability:

  • Better definition of indicator and clear definition of management steps were introduced in 2003 which leads to better comparability. Quality of collected data increases where the organisation of data management, financing and funding is centralised.
  • Progress in management of contaminated sites may vary from one country to another depending on the status of evaluation of total number of expected contaminated sites. In addition, different management steps in countries may difficult its comparison. However, the indicator tries to define different steps in a way that would be possible to harmonise different definitions. Moreover, some countries may have interpreted data specifications in different ways and therefore have provided information which may not be fully comparable. This problem is expected to be solved in the future, as better documentation of the methodology for calculation is provided.
  • National estimates on clean-up expenditures are not directly comparable. Estimates reported by countries may be partial, as they could refer to a subset of regions or include only public fundings. However they provide:
      • a baseline for the analysis of the management process for tackling local soil contamination;
      • an indication of the amount of public and partly private money spent on remediation activities;
      • an indication of the relevance of the contaminated sites issue and its economic burden in each country.
  • National data on polluting activities can be considered roughly comparable.

Rationale uncertainty

There is no common definition of contaminated sites agreed at the European level. This is expected to change in the future, as a common definition would probably be  included in  the soil thematic strategy. 

 

Contaminated sites can be defined in several ways. One possible definition could be based on the exceedance of established limits in concentrations of hazardous chemicals. However, common limits are unlikely to be established at the European level since they may be strongly influenced by local soil and geological properties.

 

As a consequence, for this indicator, a working definition based on the concept of impact levels (see table below) has been adopted, in agreement with member countries.  In particular, contaminated sites are sites where soil contamination poses significative negative effects on human health and ecosystems (levels 2 and 3), while potentially contaminated sites are sites where soil contamination is supected to pose significative negative effects on human health and ecosystems (site investigation has not been completed).

 

Table Definition of impact levels

Level

Long Definition

Brief Definition

Level 0

Sites that do not pose any negative effects to human health or the environment;  ' related environmental media can be used multi-functionally

no impacts; no restrictions

Level 1

Sites where related environmental media have tolerable contamination levels and which do not pose significant negative effects to human health or the environment, monitoring maybe necessary;  ' related environmental media can be used multi-functionally

minor impacts (tolerable contamination); no restrictions; monitoring

Level 2

Sites that pose significant negative effects to human health or the environment if the use of the related environmental media changes to a more sensitive one, monitoring maybe necessary;  ' limited use of related environmental media

no significant impacts under current use of environmental media, restricted use only

Level 3

Sites that pose significant negative effects to human health or the environment under current use of related environmental media;  ' activities as regards risk reduction needed.

Significant impacts, activities needed


The fact that there are  no common agreed definitions provides an element of uncertainty in the assessment of the situation at the European level. To minimise this problem, the indicator focuses on the impacts of the contamination and provide information on progress in management, rather than focussing on the extension of the problem (e.g. number of contaminated sites).

Although several countries still present inconsistent definitions regarding site management steps, there has been a great improvement since the first data provided by countries.

Due to different management practices in place in the various countries, some of them might provide certain estimates in one year and come up with different estimates in the following years. This might 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 intepreted and presented  carefully, taking into account all the uncertainties, problems of data comparability and the specific aspects mentioned above.

Cost estimates of remediation are difficult to obtain, especially from the private sector. Therefore teh information provided is partial. However, the indicator shows that remediation is costly, even if only public expenditures are considered. Breakdown of cost estimates (investigation, remediation) improves data comparability across countries.

More information about this indicator

See this indicator specification for more details.

Contacts and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Geertrui Veerle Erika Louwagie

Ownership

EEA Management Plan

2010 (note: EEA internal system)

Dates

Frequency of updates

Updates are scheduled every 5 years
European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Denmark
Phone: +45 3336 7100