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March 2018 - Distribution of polluted and presumed polluted soils in Brussels

Brussels Institute for Statistics and Analysis (BISA) - In the spotlight - Breakdown of the plots included in the soil condition inventory, by pollution category

The soil condition inventory compiled by Brussels Environment provides an overview of the soils within the Brussels-Capital Region that are polluted or presumed to be polluted. On 1 February 2018, it contained 14,607 plots covering a total area of 3,146 hectares, which is close to 20% of the Region’s surface area.
 

Breakdown of the plots included in the soil condition inventory, by pollution category on 1 February 2018 (surface area by category, in hectares)
 

Graph: Breakdown of the plots included in the soil condition inventory, by pollution category

How to read the graph?

The graph contains two pie charts, where the smaller one is a subset of the larger one.

The main graph shows the breakdown of the plots listed in categories 0 to 4 and also includes a sector that summarises all the plots in categories “0+”. These categories can be interpreted as follows:

  • Category 0 contains all the plots that still need to be surveyed, as there are concerns that they may be polluted (unknown risk to human health and the environment).
  • Categories 1 to 4 contains all the plots that have been the subject of a soil study:
    • 1 = unpolluted plots;

    • 2 = slightly polluted plots that are without risk;

    • 3 = polluted plots that are without risk;

    • 4 = polluted plots in the course of assessment or treatment.

  • Categories 0+ contain all the plots that have already been surveyed but need to be reassessed. This may be because a new hazardous activity is being carried out on the plot, because there are new concerns about pollution or because a former hazardous activity has not been fully investigated.

The secondary graph illustrates the breakdown of the 0+ categories by possible subcategory. The classification of subcategories 1 to 4 corresponds to what is presented above in relation to main categories 1 to 4.

The colour coding is identical to the one used for the soil condition map.
 

The soil condition map

The soil condition inventory is a dynamic tool whose content evolves on a daily basis in function of the activities that are created, transferred or discontinued, the accidents that are reported and the studies and work that are carried out. It can be visualised in the form of an interactive map that features all the plots on the inventory for which Brussels Environment already has verified information. This map can be consulted online via the Brussels Environment website (FR).

 
What does the main graph tell us?

If we look at the categories in ascending order, the key findings are that:

  • 27% of the surface area featuring in the inventory (836 ha), i.e. 5.2% of the region’s surface area, is made up of plots that still need to be assessed (category 0). In other words, the risk to human health and the environment is not yet known.
  • 25% of the surface area inventoried (791 ha) is classified as unpolluted or (slightly) polluted without risk (categories 1 to 3). There is no risk or the risk is under control. These plots do not come with any conditions attached unless a new hazardous activity is carried out. However, soil excavated from plots classified in categories 2 and 3 cannot be re-used on another plot within the Brussels Region. Furthermore, plots in category 3 are subject to land-use restrictions.
  • 8% of the surface area in the inventory (245 ha) is made up of polluted plots that come with a non-negligible risk (category 4). The plots in question are under investigation or the subject of various measures: remediation, risk management, time-limited treatment or emergency measures. Some conditions must be respected before the sale or the cessation of the parcel.
  • 40% of the surface area on the list (1,274 ha) has been the subject of a study that remains to be completed (category 0+). The risk must be reassessed or is currently being reassessed.
     

The main graph also tells us that 67% of the surface area inventoried (2,110 ha) is made up of plots where the risk is unknown or needs to be reassessed (addition of categories 0 and 0+). This percentage stood at 76% for the 14,700 plots inventoried on 31 December 2014 (Brussels Environment, State of the Brussels Environment, 2011-2014 Report). Over the years, the condition of the parcels included in the inventory is better known and a shift takes place from categories 0 and 0+ to the other categories.
 

What does the secondary graph tell us?

The secondary graph features the various 0+ subcategories. The key finding here is that the plots in category 0+4 predominate, i.e. polluted plots requiring further investigation (595 ha, i.e. 19% of the surface area inventoried).

If we combine the data from the two graphs for categories 4 and 0+4, we can conclude that 27% of the surface area inventoried (840 ha or 5.2% of the Brussels territory) shows polluted soils and needs to be investigated further or treated. This means that, as things stand, the risk to human health and/or the environment is considered non-negligible on these plots.

 

 Keen to find out more?

If so, check out the numerous environment-related statistics that have been published on the BISA website, under the theme Environment and Energy. The “Environment and territory” tables inter alia contain statistics on the pollution of soils within the Brussels-Capital Region.