Soil Themes > Soil Contamination
Soil contamination is the occurrence of pollutants in soil above a certain level causing a deterioration or loss of one or more soil functions. Also, Soil Contamination can be considered as the presence of man-made chemicals or other alteration in the natural soil environment. This type of contamination typically arises from the rupture of underground storage tanks, application of pesticides, percolation of contaminated surface water to subsurface strata, leaching of wastes from landfills or direct discharge of industrial wastes to the soil. The most common chemicals involved are petroleum hydrocarbons, solvents, pesticides, lead and other heavy metals. The occurrence of this phenomenon is correlated with the degree of industrialization and intensity of chemical usage.
At EU-level, the issue of contaminated sites (local contamination) and contaminated land (diffuse contamination) has been considered by:
- Joint Research Centre (JRC) with a number of actions:
- work on the IRENA indicators for Soil: pesticide soil contamination (indicator 20), soil erosion (indicator 23) and soil quality (indicator 29).
- work on a common risk assessment references for contaminated sites in Europe through organization of an expert meeting "Towards an European Common Framework for Risk Assessment of Contaminated Sites in Europe" (February 2005, Ispra, Italy)
- a workshop on "Contaminated Lands in Accession Countries: Benchmarking Historical Heritage and National Actions", jointly organized by the JRC and EC DG Environment (November 2003, Budapest, Hungary)
- a study on the ranking of contaminated sites (see the report "Derivation methods of soil screening values in Europe. A review and evaluation of national procedures towards harmonization")
- PECOMINES, a JRC Project in association with Central and Eastern European Pre-Accession Countries on "Inventory, Regulations and Environmental Impact of Toxic Mining Wastes in Pre-Accession Countries"
- (Before 2007) European Environment Agency (EEA) through work around the core set indicator "Progress in management of contaminated sites (CSI 015)"
- (After 2007) ESDAC and the indicator "Progress in management of contaminated sites" (CSI 015):
In the context of the development of the European Soil Data Centre (ESDAC) by JRC, considered as a focal point for soil related data in Europe, it was jointly decided by the European Environment Agency (EEA) and Joint Research Centre (JRC) that all soil data management activities carried out by EEA in collaboration with EIONET will be transferred to the JRC. This decision took place at the "EIONET Workshop on Soil" in September 2007 with representatives from DG ENV, EEA and JRC, together with representatives from the EIONET 'National Reference Centres for Soil' and members of the Steering Committee of the 'European Soil Bureau Network'. After the Brussels 2007 EIONET Workshop and a consecutive workshop in 2009, in which data needs by EEA and DG ENV were expressed, and in which a number of actions were planned. ESDAC embarked on two major data collections. One on 'soil organic carbon' and 'soil erosion' in 2009-2010, and one on 'contaminated sites' in 2011-2012., the latter aiming at making an update of the indicator "Progress in management of contaminated sites". For the EIONET Data Collection on Contaminated Sites 2011, EIONET countries were asked to provide their updated information on various variables related to contaminated sites, following a questionnaire which was not very different from similar exercises conducted by the EEA before 2007. The draft report of the data collection exercise is used as input to the JRC Reference Report "Progress in the Management of Contaminated Sites in Europe", due end 2014. In the meantime, the results of the exercise were also used in a scientific paper: Panagos, P., Van Liedekerke, M., Yigini, Y., Montanarella, L. 2013. Contaminated Sites in Europe: Review of the Current Situation Based on Data Collected through a European Network. Journal of Environmental and Public Health, vol. 2013, Article ID 158764, pp 1-11. doi:10.1155/2013/158764.
- Additional information on National/European approaches can be found in the sites below
- Access to results of international projects on contaminated sites (information on national approaches): http://www.umweltbundesamt.at/en/umweltschutz/altlasten/projekte1/international1/
- Information resources on contaminated sites: http://www.eugris.info
- Nicole website: http://www.nicole.org
- DG ENV publication on soil contamination and land management (2004): http://ec.europa.eu/environment/soil/pdf/vol4.pdf
- EEA publication on national approaches (1999): http://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/Topic_report_No_131999
- EEA indicator on progress in management of contaminated sites in Europe (2007): http://themes.eea.europa.eu/IMS/ISpecs/ISpecification20041007131746/IAssessment1152619898983/view_content
Data: Heavy Metals in topsoils
For the purpose of research only, the data "Heavy Metals in topsoils" are made available to the public. Download the data for mapping concentrations of eight critical heavy metals (arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, mercury, nickel, lead and zinc) using the 1588 georeferenced topsoil samples from the FOREGS Geochemical database.
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| European Commission - Joint
Institute for Environment and Sustainability
Marc Van Liedekerke(tel. +39-0332-785179)
Panos Panagos (tel. +39-0332-785574)