Expenditure on remediation of contaminated sites

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Prod-ID: IND-10-en
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Assessment made on  01 Nov 2002

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DPSIR: Response


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Policy issue:  How much is being spent on cleaning up soil contamination?

Key messages

  • Although the "polluter pays" principle is generally applied, a huge sum of public money has to be provided to fund necessary remediation activities, which is a common factor across Europe. However, annual expenditures vary from 35 to under EUR 2 per capita in the various countries. Even though considerable amount of money has been spent on remediation activities already, the share compared to the total estimated remediation costs is relatively low (8 % maximum).


Key assessment

Data show that:

  • considerable sums of (public and private) money have to be provided to comply with existing environmental standards;
  • the priority given to the management of contaminated sites is different in each country (assuming that the problems are more or less the same);
  • annual remediation expenditures in the various countries have almost been constant in the years 1999?2000;
  • on average, annual expenditure for the remediation of contaminated sites amongst the countries surveyed is approx. 0.8 ? of their GDP;
  • annual expenditures are on average about 2.5 % of the estimated total remediation costs (data from six countries); with a maximum of 7.9 % of the total in Denmark.

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 because of insolvency of the polluter. Therefore, a considerable share of the total remediation costs has to be provided by public funds. Estimations on public expenditure are readily available, however, information on private expenditure is scarce and depends on rough estimations.

There is a more than a hundred-fold difference in annual remediation expenditures (public and private) per capita amongst the reporting countries (see Figure 1). These differences reflect not just the varying degrees of awareness, but also the different environmental standards applied in each country, the different hydrological conditions and degree of industrialisation.

Remediation costs are on average 10 times higher than site investigations costs.

Links between environmental merit and invested budgets are highly dependent on national standards, in terms of remediation targets and local site conditions.

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European Environment Agency (EEA)
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