Footing the legislative bill
The Soil Remediation Decree has been in force since 1995, with the aim of managing and remediating soil contamination in Flanders. This includes all forms of contamination of soil, sediment and groundwater. However, the legal instruments elaborated in the regulations are primarily aimed at soil contamination that can be directly linked to a clearly identifiable and easily locatable source or risk activity. It appears necessary to examine whether the instruments can be improved to cover all kinds of soil contamination.
Diffuse contamination: defining a non-aligned concept
In Flanders, diffuse soil contamination is defined as soil contamination caused by dispersed sources (e.g. atmospheric deposition, emissions from traffic, agricultural practices, discharges, floods, etc.). This means, in practice, very often large areas are covered and demarcation of the contamination is difficult. In addition, diffuse soil contamination is defined as soil contamination due to all kinds of, often small-scale, artisanal activities (including the dumping and incineration of waste), often from the (distant) past, and for which the source and cause data have usually been lost. Contaminants of emerging concern are often present as diffuse soil contamination.
Objective: an all-inclusive approach for soil contamination
Until now, as a result of the specific focus of the legal instruments from the Soil Decree, diffuse soil contamination has been addressed in a limited way and on an ad hoc basis. However, an approach for diffuse soil contamination is desirable and this for several reasons. The spread of diffuse soil contamination is often cited as one of the causes of loss of soil biodiversity and loss of soil ecosystem services. Diffuse soil contamination can affect the quality of agricultural land, impairing safe food supply in the future. Last but not least, drinking water supplies can also be affected in the long term by diffuse soil contamination.
In order to arrive at a management and approach for all soil contamination in Flanders in the long term, OVAM wishes to elaborate policy actions aimed at tackling diffuse soil contamination.
As a first step in developing policy actions, OVAM has made an inventory of all data sources concerning diffuse soil contamination in Flanders, in which the size and impact of the problem is also described. This inventory serves as the basis for formulating proposals for the further approach to diffuse contamination in Flanders. The now published study provides an overview of known sources of diffuse soil contamination. Additionally, the impact of diffuse soil contamination for various sources and parameters is assessed qualitatively. Based on this evaluation, any gaps and possible further actions can thus be identified. Conclusively, proposals are formulated for the further approach to diffuse soil contamination via the OVAM soil policy.
The report “Diffuse soil contamination – inventory of data sources and proposed approach” can be found here.