The emissions of a number of compounds categorised as persistent organic pollutants (POPs) decreased between 1990 and 2014 in the EEA-33, e.g. hexachlorobenzene (HCB) by 95 %, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) by 71 %, dioxins and furans by 85 % and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) by 60 %.
Although the majority of countries report that POP emissions fell during this period, some report that emissions increased.
In 2014, the most significant sources of emissions for these POPs included the ‘Commercial, institutional and households’ (13 % of HCB, 39 % of dioxins and furans, 54 % of PAHs and 15 % of PCBs) and ‘Industrial processes and product use’ (16 % of HCB and 51 % of PCBs) sectors.
Across the EEA-33 countries, emissions of lead decreased by 92 %, mercury by 73 % and cadmium by 66 % between 1990 and 2014.
Across the EEA-33 countries, emissions of lead from the road transport sector decreased by 98 % between 1990 and 2014. Nevertheless, the road transport sector still remains an important source of lead, contributing around 15 % of total lead emissions in the EEA-33 region. The largest sources are industrial processes and product use, which together account for 23 % of emissions. However, since 2004, little progress has been made in reducing emissions further; 99 % of the total reduction in emissions of lead from 1990 levels had been achieved by 2004.
In 2012, the concentrations of the eight assessed hazardous substances were generally: Low or Moderate for Hexachlorobenzene (HCB) and lindane; Moderate for cadmium, mercury, lead, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and 6-Benzylaminopurine BAP; and Moderate or High for polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB).
A general downward trend was found between 2003 and 2012 in the North-East Atlantic for cadmium, lead, lindane, PCB, DDT and BAP, and also in the Baltic Sea for lindane and PCB. No trends could be calculated for the other regional seas.
Local soil contamination in 2011 was estimated at 2.5 million potentially contaminated sites in the EEA-39, of which about 45 % have been identified to date. About one third of an estimated total of 342 000 contaminated sites in the EEA-39 have already been identified and about 15 % of these 342 000 sites have been remediated. However, there are substantial differences in the underlying site definitions and interpretations that are used in different countries.
Four management steps are defined for the management and control of local soil contamination, namely site identification (or preliminary studies), preliminary investigations, main site investigations, and implementation of risk reduction measures. Progress with each of these steps provides evidence that countries are identifying potentially contaminated sites, verifying if these sites are actually contaminated and implementing remediation measures where these are required. Some countries have defined targets for the different steps.
Thirty of the 39 countries surveyed maintain comprehensive inventories for contaminated sites: 24 countries have central national data inventories, while six countries, namely Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Germany, Greece, Italy and Sweden, manage their inventories at the regional level. Almost all of the inventories include information on polluting activities, potentially contaminated sites and contaminated sites.
Contaminated soil continues to be commonly managed using “traditional” techniques, e.g. excavation and off-site disposal, which accounts for about one third of management practices. In-situ and ex-situ remediation techniques for contaminated soil are applied more or less equally.
Overall, the production sectors contribute more to local soil contamination than the service sectors, while mining activities are important sources of soil contamination in some countries. In the production sector, metal industries are reported as most polluting whereas the textile, leather, wood and paper industries are minor contributors to local soil contamination. Gasoline stations are the most frequently reported sources of contamination for the service sector.
The relative importance of different contaminants is similar for both liquid and solid matrices. The most frequent contaminants are mineral oils and heavy metals. Generally, phenols and cyanides make a negligible overall contribution to total contamination.
On average, 42 % of the total expenditure on the management of contaminated sites comes from public budgets. Annual national expenditures for the management of contaminated sites are on average about EUR 10.7 per capita. This corresponds to an average of 0.041 % of the national GDP. Around 81 % of the annual national expenditures for the management of contaminated sites is spent on remediation measures, while only 15 % is spent on site investigations.
It should be noted that all results derive from data provided by 27 (out of 39) countries that returned the questionnaire, and not all countries answered all questions.