Remediation with or without construction project: Coordinating contaminated sites and construction law

Remediation without construction project

Cleaning up a contaminated site takes place with or without permit-dependent construction measures, depending on the procedure selected. In the case of a large project such as the construction of a system of barrier walls to safeguard a contaminated site, the requisite cantonal and communal construction regulations, among others, are to be taken into account. But in cases of remediation with only minimal construction work required, such as an in situ biological remediation, clarifications of the applicable construction law are usually unnecessary.
In cases where the site remediation requires construction measures the decision of the authorities on the remediation project should be coordinated with the appropriate construction permit.

Remediation with construction project

In construction projects affecting a polluted area of a site it must be ensured that either:

  • the site is not in need of remediation and the project does not make its remediation necessary, or
  • its later remediation is not seriously hampered, or
  • insofar as it is modified by the project - it is at the same time remediated.

In the case of construction projects at a polluted site it is usually very important to elucidate the impact of the construction on the polluted site in good time and determine what measures or assessments are still necessary. This is particularly the case with sites still undergoing investigations concerning an assessment of their need for monitoring or remediation. Early  assessments of damage to sites and protected property can help avoid expensive delays in procuring the requisite construction permit or in construction activities, possibly even resulting in a halt to construction altogether.

The regulations in force covering contaminated sites in no way rule out construction on a polluted site. If a polluted site is found to be in need of remediation in the course of a construction project (e.g. because of the construction of an industrial building), it makes sense to coordinate the remediation project, or the decision of the authorities on it, with the corresponding construction project or construction permit procedure. The authorities are in principle only permitted to issue the construction permit when the remediation project has been approved, so long as it has been shown that the construction project would not make later remediation more difficult.

For further information please refer to the FOEN Enforcement Aid Module "Construction and Contaminated Sites" (FOEN, 2016).

Last modification 07.07.2021

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