You are in: Home
> Soil and Contaminated Sites - What's new
> EU Soil Framework Directive
Soil and Contaminated Sites
EU Soil Framework Directive
Last changed: 08/10/2010/2007
1. Assessment of national requirements and possible disadvantages
Photo: UBAOn 22 September 2006 the EU Commission presented its Thematic Soil Strategy along with a proposal for a Soil Framework Directive.
The objectives of the Soil Framework Directive are:
- To avoid the further degradation of soil quality and to preserve soil’s functions, and
- Restore soil quality to a level of functionality consistent at least with current and intended use, also in consideration of cost implications.
These objectives are founded on four principles:
- Legislative framework to protect soil from erosion, decline of organic matter, salinisation, compaction, landslides, and soil contamination;
- Incorporation of soil protection in Member States’ and EU measures;
- Closing the gap in knowledge through research at the EU and national levels;
- Raising public awareness of the necessity of soil protection.
A referendum on the Framework Directive is in progress, and a reading in the European Parliament is scheduled for September 2007. The Commission expects the directive to enter into force by mid-2008.
More information can be found on the pages of the EU Commission and its Soil Strategy.
Assessment of national requirements
No additional administrative burden on Germany can be identified on account of the proposed EU Soil Framework Directive. The anticipated regulations will not lead to significant changes in existing German soil protection law. The following is of note:
- Precautionary measures (Article 4) are already incorporated into existing German law in § 7 and § 17 Federal Soil Protection Act (Bundesbodenschutzgesetz - BBodSchG).
- A provision to place limitations on sealing (Article 5) is made in German regulations concerning regional planning and building law.
- Identification of risk areas (Article 6) is also required in the implementation of other provisions (e.g. cross-compliance).
- Programmes of measures to combat degradation in risk areas (Article 8) essentially correspond to the requirements of good agricultural practice as per § 17 BBodSchG and related law.
- Prevention of soil contamination (Article 9) is regulated in Germany by § 7 (Obligation to take Precautions) and § 4 (Obligations to Prevent Hazards) BBodSchG.
- The inventory of ”contaminated sites” (Article 10) is to be drawn up similarly as prescribed by German laws on risk to human health and the environment.
- Identification of potentially contaminated sites (Article 11) is not conform to the practice in Germany. The Soil Framework Directive refers to ”potentially soil-polluting activities” whereas in Germany, ”sufficient suspicion that a harmful soil change exists” suffices for action. Additional costs will be incurred at this point. The deadlines for carrying out risk assessments of potentially contaminated sites (100% within 25 years) may be cause for criticism, for German domestic scheduling is often more ambitious (in Bavaria: 100% by 2020).
- Upon sale of property that may be polluted a soil status report must be made available (Article 12). The pros and cons of this must be weighed.
- Remediation obligations and requirements (Article 13) are analagous to the Obligations to Prevent Hazards (§ 4 BBodSchG) valid in Germany.
- A National Remediation Strategy (Article 14) including targets, prioritisation and a timetable for implementation may well be provided for in national legislation on contaminated sites and soil protection.
It is possible that reporting to the Commission will be more time-consuming should the data not already be available, as is the case as regards contaminated sites.
In addition to ecological reasons, the prospect of increased competitiveness ought to provide an incentive for Germany to implement the directive, so that soil protection requirements in Europe might be harmonised with Germany’s targets.
Federal Environment Agency opinion on disadvantages
- No quantitative targets of soil protection are defined (real numbers that apply in BBodSchG / BBodSchV or in the Sewage Sludge Ordinance).
- The rigid definition of the subsidiarity principle allows members states to decide ”which risks they accept, how ambitious the resolved targets are to be, and what measures they select with which to achieve these targets” (Notice, Paragraph 4.1, Recital 17). This might lead to unfair competition at the expense of Germany’s agricultural sector.
- The definition of ”contamination” and inclusion of sites used in some industrial sectors (Annex I). There is a risk that they become suspicious in general (burden of proof).
- Monitoring (continuous) and associated illustration of trends in soil risks have been relegated to lesser importance compared to earlier ambitions, essentially reduced to a system of reporting to the EU. Although a central (national) office is envisioned to fulfil this task, no coordination among member states is planned or is only featured as an intention.
- There is reason to believe that long-term protection against pollutant and nutrient inputs is not firmly incorporated on account of the wording ”further inputs of soil pollutants in or on the soil are to be reduced”. In fact, sustainable protection of soils should not allow any pollutant or nutrient accumulation above critical threshold concentrations that might, for example, lead to harmful soil changes such as eutrophication and acidification as well as loss of local biodiversity. National schemes to implement the directive should at least aim to establish quality and action targets or systems of valuation that are harmonised throughout the EU.