Key messages:  Complete inventories of contaminated sites are lacking at the EU level. However, projections for the EU-27 indicate that the total number of potentially contaminated sites is 2.8 million. In 2016, 1.38 million potentially contaminated sites were registered by 23 Member States. 69% of those have been confirmed by on-site investigations. Among the potentially contaminated sites registered, only 8.3% were remediated as of 2016, hence progress in remediation is relatively low

Potentially contaminated sites in EU Member States*, as registered in national inventories, 2006-2016

Loading chart...

The extent of soil contamination in Europe is not fully understood because complete inventories of contaminated sites are lacking at the EU level. Sites where both contamination and associated risks are suspected are called ‘potentially contaminated sites’.   

In 2016, 1.38 million potentially contaminated sites were registered, of which 69% were confirmed by on-site investigations. In this context, contamination refers to substances such as hydrocarbons, mineral oil, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, heavy metals and pesticides. The total number of potentially contaminated sites for the EU-27 was projected to be 2.8 million based on 2016 statistics. At least 2 million of these are expected to be registered once comparable national registers are fully developed.   

The increase in potentially contaminated sites between 2006 and 2016 is most likely rooted in increased data collected from national inventories. In 2016, data from national inventories showed that 8.3% of the currently registered potentially contaminated sites were remediated in the EU. However, the overall remediation rate is low.   

The Commission recently proposed a soil monitoring law, which foresees the establishment of an EU soil monitoring framework. If adopted, it will require Member States to systematically register potentially contaminated sites for all major polluting activities. This requirement will increase the number of identified, risk-assessed and managed contaminated sites. Besides, greater support for research and development on decontamination solutions may foster soil remediation. This may reduce the threat potentially contaminated sites pose to human health and ecosystems. 

Please consult the relevant indicators and signals below for a more comprehensive overview on the topic.

The management of contaminated sites depends on national initiatives and data originate from national inventories of contaminated sites. The collected data and information are based on questionnaires sent to national experts of the European Environmental Information and Observation Network (Eionet).   

The indicator is based on results from three collection campaigns: 2001-2006, 2011 and 2016. The Joint Research Centre (JRC) coordinated the collection of data in 2011 and 2016.    

A trend for this indicator cannot be determined due to varying geographical coverage and the discrepancies between national inventories. In 2016, 11 out of 23 countries accounted for 98% of the registered potentially contaminated sites.  

The projected number of potentially contaminated sites was based on the extent of artificial surfaces in the EU


More information is available at the EEA indicator page

References and footnotes

  1. EC, 2023, Proposal for a DIRECTIVE OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL on Soil Monitoring and Resilience (Soil Monitoring Law) (COM/2023/416 final).
  2. Paya Perez, A. and Rodríguez Eugenio, N., 2018, Status of local soil contamination in Europe: revision of the indicator ‘Progress in the management contaminated sites in Europe’, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg.