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Emissions of a number of compounds categorised as persistent organic pollutants (POPs) - e.g. hexachlorobenzene (HCB, by 92%), hexachlorocyclohexane (HCH, by 85%), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs, by 75%), dioxins & furans (by 83%), and poly-aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs, by 61%) - decreased between 1990 and 2012 in the EEA-33 countries. While the majority of countries report that POPs emissions fell during this period, a number report that increased emissions occurred.
In 2012, the most significant sources of emissions for these POPs included ‘Commercial, institutional and households’ (10% of HCB, 32% of dioxins and furans, 16% of PCBs) and ‘Industrial processes’ (70% of HCB, 32% of HCH, 27% of PCBs) sectors.
Across the EEA-33 countries, emissions of lead decreased by 89%, mercury by 66% and cadmium by 64% between 1990 and 2012.
Emissions from the road transport sector have decreased by nearly 98%. Nevertheless, the road transport sector still remains an important source of lead, contributing around 12% of total lead emissions in the EEA-33 region. However, since 2004, little progress has been made in reducing emissions further; 97.9% of the total reduction from 1990 emissions of lead had been achieved by 2004.
The manufacturing industry in 11 countries (Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden) has achieved absolute decoupling of nutrient emissions from economic growth (GVA). A decrease in emissions coupled with a decrease in gross value added (GVA) occurred in the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Belgium and Finland. However, in all cases (except Finland), the rate of emissions decrease was greater than that of GVA. An increase in nutrient emissions, accompanying the growth in GVA, was observed in Slovakia and Poland.
These developments arise from different absolute levels of emissions intensities and depend on there being no major changes in data coverage - such as including more facilities in the most recent reporting year despite them already existing in the earliest reporting year - within the countries during the reporting period. It should be noted that, as some industrial emissions may vary considerably from year to year, the comparison of just two selected years might be subject to variations, and not be representative of a consistent trend.
The achievement of absolute decoupling of manufacturing industries' heavy metals emissions from economic growth (GVA) was observed again in 12 countries (Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden). A decrease in emissions, coupled with a decrease in GVA occurred in the United Kingdom, Italy and Belgium. In all cases, the decrease in the rate of emissions was greater than that of GVA (relative decoupling). An increase in emissions, despite a drop in GVA, was observed in Finland and France. Finally, a growth in emissions accompanying economic growth occurred in the manufacturing industry in Hungary.
Given the multiple factors that affect both sectoral GVA and the pollution pressure originating from manufacturing, it is complicated to draw direct relationships between these two variables. Some key descriptors, which could aid in explaining this behaviour, are the structure of the sector (e.g. facility size distribution, production technology, relative proportion reported as E-PRTR releases), the socioeconomic characteristics (e.g. salary levels) of the area and the policy and/or economic measures in place (e.g. treatment requirements, pollution charges, taxes). However, it must be noted that the specific context of each country could result in varying combinations of the factors mentioned and their aggregate effects.
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.
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe’s environment.
PDF generated on 05 Aug 2015, 10:28 AM
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