Joint Research Centre - European Commission

The European Commission's in-house science service
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Contaminated sites are mainly managed using ‘traditional’ techniques such as excavation

Contaminated sites are mainly managed using ‘traditional’ techniques such as excavation© Restoration Science & Engineering, LLC

New JRC report on the management of contaminated sites in Europe


The JRC has recently published a report presenting the current state of knowledge on the management of contaminated sites in Europe. It aims to support the EU Soil Thematic Strategy.

In order to track the progress of the management of contaminated sites, the new report summarises the information obtained from National Reference Centres for Soil that belong to the European Environment Information and Observation Network (EIONET). Out of the 39 network members, 27 participated in the 2011-2012 voluntary data collection campaign organised by the European Soil Data Centre managed by the JRC.

The report outlines the following findings:

  • There are an estimated 2.5 million potentially contaminated sites in Europe, where soil contamination is suspected and detailed investigations are needed.
  • Out of the circa 115 000 contaminated sites that have already been identified in Europe, nearly half of them (46%) have already been remediated.
  • Contaminated sites are mainly managed using ‘traditional’ techniques such as excavation and off-site disposal, which together account for about one third of management practices.
  • Mining activities, metal industries and gasoline stations are the most frequently reported sources of soil and groundwater contamination. However, the range of polluting activities varies considerably from country to country.
  • The most frequently occurring contaminants are mineral oils and heavy metals.
  • Annual national expenditure for the management of contaminated sites is on average about €10 per capita.

Since the last data request in 2006, 9 countries have established new policy targets relating to the management of contaminated sites and in total 17 countries report official policy targets in this area.

Background information

Large volumes of waste production and widespread use of chemicals during the past decades have resulted in soil contamination. The overarching policy objective is to impede potential risk to the environment and human health caused by manmade contaminants. While existing EU legislation helps to prevent new contamination of soil (i.e. the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Directive, Landfill Directive, Water Framework Directive), efforts should still be made to deal with historical soil contamination.

The respondents provided data for a set of indicators established by the European Environment Agency (EEA) to estimate the extent of local soil contamination, quantify the progress achieved in its management and control, identify the main contaminants and sources that affect soil and groundwater, and evaluate the budget spent on cleaning up soil contamination.