One of the threats to proper functioning of the soil is contamination with chemical substances. This may be contamination of the topsoil or of the groundwater. Risks to health, the ecosystem or spread to the groundwater can be a reason for tackling a location as a matter of urgency. The degree of urgency is determined using the Sanscrit assessment instrument.
The highest number of locations which had possibly suffered the most serious contamination was deemed to be 650 thousand locations in 2004. Since then, most of these locations have been investigated. In most cases there was no evidence of serious soil contamination. Remediation was performed in a total of thirty thousand cases at locations with so-called urgent soil contamination. In the Soil and Substrate covenant government bodies agreed with each other that the remaining 1,400 locations with urgent soil contamination will be remediated and/or controlled by 2020.
Bodemloket.nl provides a map showing where historical activities may have resulted in contamination of the soil and groundwater. It also shows where research and remediation have taken place.
Edited April 6th 2018
Damage to health in the event of contact
Living on contaminated land in the Netherlands rarely leads to serious damage to people's health. The exposure is usually too minor for this to occur. We only run health risks if we come into direct or indirect contact with contaminated soil, leading us to become exposed to the contaminating substances it contains.
Direct and indirect exposure
People can come into contact with contamination in the soil or groundwater via various exposure routes. This not only involves direct contact with the soil, but also indirect contact via air, water and vegetables which become a risk due to contamination from the soil.
The use of contaminated soil determines the degree of exposure. In the case of vegetable gardens, for example, the consumption of cultivated vegetables grown on contaminated soil can cause health issues.
Similarly, health issues can occur after breathing in volatile contamination which moves from the ground water to the surface of the soil or accumulates in people's homes, for example in their cellars. Another example of risks of health damage occurs if contaminated drinking water is consumed, for example from a private drinking water well.
Edited April 6th 2018
The government coordinates the soil remediation operation. This involves cooperation between central government, the municipalities and the provincial governments.
First and foremost the polluter is called to account. Often there are several. Sometimes agreements can be made with a particular sector. The government pays for the soil to be made suitable for use again only if no party can be called to account.
Contamination is not always removed, for example at locations where it cannot cause too many issues in the current situation. In those instances use will be restricted. Measurements will then be taken regularly to determine whether the contamination is actually spreading and whether the situation is changing. We refer to this as monitoring.
Edited April 6th 2018
Find out more information yourself
- Your provincial government or the municipal authorities can tell you which nearby locations are, or are suspected of being, contaminated. Sometimes the municipal authorities will have commissioned an operations unit or environmental authority to carry out this task.
- Are you buying a house or a piece of land? If so, you should check whether a declaration of suitability or a 'clean soil declaration' is available. If this is not the case, an assessment will have to be made to determine whether the site is contaminated.
- You yourself should also look out for indications that the soil is contaminated. For example, have any oil barrels leaked onto the site, or has a path been laid using rubble which may include broken pieces of asbestos?
- Make sure that the soil is clean before you start a vegetable garden.
- If you are going to build or extend, a soil survey will often be necessary in order to obtain a building permit.
- Do you live on contaminated soil which is being cleaned up? If so, you can set up a residents group to represent your interests.
- You can also take steps yourself to prevent any new soil contamination. Be careful with substances which can cause contamination such as oil and petrol.
If you suspect soil contamination, you should report this immediately to the municipal authorities.