Contamination from local sources
Due to progress in monitoring and data collection, estimates on the number of sites requiring investigation and clean-up have increased in the recent past, a trend which is expected to continue. In addition, the number of remediated sites is increasing, albeit relatively slowly .
The range of polluting activities — and their relative importance as localised sources of soil contamination — may vary considerably across Europe, with the most important sources being industrial and commercial activities and the treatment and disposal of waste.
Reports from countries across Europe indicate that heavy metals and mineral oil are the most frequent soil contaminants at investigated sites, while mineral oil and chlorinated hydrocarbons are the most frequent contaminants found in groundwater. These estimates are based on the frequency a contaminant is reported at the investigated site. Other contaminants include polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), aromatic hydrocarbons (BTEX), phenols and chlorinated hydrocarbons (CHC).
Cleaning up contaminated sites is a costly exercise. However, in the countries where estimates are possible, the annual expenditure remains relatively small, on average representing 2 % of the estimated costs necessary for the overall management of contaminated sites.
Although most of the countries in Europe have legislation which apply the "polluter-pays" principle to the management of contaminated sites, large sums of public money are still provided to fund remediation activities: on average 35 % of the total expenditure. This is primarily due to the limited nature of the legislation, especially in the case of the remediation of historical contamination, where many of the legally responsible polluters no longer exist, cannot be identified or are insolvent.
Sadly this is a common trend across Europe. The proportion of public funds used to clean up contaminated sites ranges from 100 % in the Czech Republic, former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Spain, to a minimum of approximately 7 % in France, where a large proportion of funds comes from the private sector. But like many aspects of soil information only approximate data on public expenditure is available and information on private expenditures remains patchy.
 Estimates do not include Cyprus, Poland and Portugal.
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.
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