French Environment and Energy Management Agency
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Polluted sites and soils
ADEME in action
Context and issues at stake
The soil is the upper layer of the earth’s crust. It is the product of complex interactions between the climate, geology, vegetation, biological activity, time and land use.
The soil fulfils many functions which are essential to life and often interdependent. These are :
In addition, the soil is a non-renewable resource with potentially rapid rates of degradation (several years or decades), while the formation and regeneration processes are extremely slow (several thousands of years). with potentially rapid rates of degradation (several years or decades), while the formation and regeneration processes are extremely slow (several thousands of years).
The soil is subject to an increasingly large number of threats related to human activities. These threats were spelled out by the European Commission in its communication of April 2002, eight of which are considered the most serious : related to . These threats were spelled out by the European Commission in its communication of April 2002, eight of which are considered the most serious :
Although these threats have a direct impact on all the soil’s functions, it is generally believed that the most vulnerable functions in terms of human health are those associated with small and large-scale food production (from vegetable gardens to farm crops) and those involving the filtration and storage of underground water, the primary source of drinking water. In addition to human health hazards, certain threats can also have an impact on other functions of the soil, such as support of human activity or the cultural heritage (e.g. contamination of soil for recreational use, such as a kindergarten located near a metallurgy industrial site or habitat degradation, loss of soil fertility - economic support of agricultural production) or support of biodiversity of the earth’s ecosystems.
Although these threats do not appear throughout the land in a consistent manner, it has been proven that the degradation processes are becoming more pronounced and climate change will likely make them worse.
In light of these threats, ADEME is responsible for taking actions to protect the soil and clean up polluted sites. These actions include prevention of soil pollution, long-term management of agricultural soils, and securement and rehabilitation of polluted sites and soils, usually as a result of industrial activities. Their aim is to assess the extent of the contamination and related health and environmental impacts and prevent soil pollution.
These two aspects - protecting the soil and cleaning up polluted sites - relate back to the distinction between soil contamination caused by non-point sources (e.g. atmospheric fallout, farming practices) and contamination caused by clearly confined sources (e.g. local or one-time contamination related to an industrial site).
In the area of polluted sites and soils, ADEME takes action to protect the soil and clean up polluted sites. This action includes prevention of soil pollution, long-term management of agricultural soils, and securement and rehabilitation of sites and soils that have been polluted, usually as a result of industrial activity.
As part of the national policy on polluted sites, ADEME conducts activities centred on four key areas of focus :
ADEME’s activities (Biological Management and Soils) are focused mainly on data and knowledge acquisition in an effort to ensure long-term soil management. Studies and research are therefore conducted mainly on the following topics :
This action can be put to advantage through regulatory support, standardisation, publications, organised events, the drafting of good practices guides and the development of decision support tools.
French Environment and Energy Management Agency Source http://www.ademe.fr