Soil protection, remediation and use of excavated soil/sediment

In Flanders, the Soil Decree provides for a thorough, curative approach to soil contamination with, in addition, an important preventive component.

Soil protection and remediation

This includes stricter regulation of the remediation obligation, liability for new soil contamination and sustainable management of soil materials through the regulations on soil disposal. Specific instruments in the decree, such as the soil certificate and the Land Information Register play crucial roles, not only in the process of protecting against and remediating soil contamination, but also in raising awareness and incentivising soil stewardship. 

More specifically, the Soil Decree places a clean-up obligation on the owner of land on which soil contamination has occurred, even when the owner did not cause the pollution. In this sense, the owner has a duty to deal with the soil contamination present on its land (a legal obligation to treat the soil contamination as far as it poses a risk to people and the environment), even if it is not the party that caused the contamination. This broader interpretation of the Environmental Liability Directive can be understood as a legal translation of Soil and Land Stewardship that places a heavy responsibility on the owner. 

Further instruction on protection and remediation is given in the Codes of Good Practice and Standard Procedures of OVAM. OVAM has developed several codes of good practice to ensure that soil investigation and soil remediation are conducted under conditions that best favour the environment (e.g. Code for Phytoremediation).  

Excavated soil/sediment

The rules concerning the transport and use of excavated soil (earth-moving) are also aimed at prevention. Since 2001, Flanders has a regulation for the use of excavated soil. This regulation stipulates the conditions for the application of ‘excavated soil materials’, oriented at the highest quality reuse option, with initiatives for ‘regenerative approaches’ on their way. Two certified, independent soil management organisations – Grondbank and Grondwijzer – have been established to help project developers and owners to deal with excavated soil and sediments.