Six objectives must be taken into account when dealing with contaminated sites.

  • long term, sustainable elimination of hazard
  • solution to the contaminated sites problem within a generation
  • rapid remediation of severe contaminated sites
  • stop emissions at source
  • cooperation among those affected
  • stepwise management of polluted sites 

A large number of polluted sites can only be handled in steps for reasons of personnel, time and money. In principle, individual sites should be approached first at a global and then at an increasingly detailed level in order that those among the approximately 38'000 polluted sites requiring remediation or monitoring can be earmarked. This method, anchored in the Contaminated Sites Ordinance, is primarily intended to prevent rushed detailed investigations or remediations which cost much, bring little and interfere with the mutual trust of the parties involved.

  • Cantons shall ensure that landfills and other sites polluted by waste are remediated if they lead to harmful effects or nuisances or if there is a substantial danger that such effects may arise.
  • The Federal Council may enact regulations concerning the need to remediate as well as remediation objectives and urgency.
  • The cantons produce a publically accessible register of landfills and other sites polluted by wastes.

Contaminated sites and their inter-connections

In cleaning up contaminated sites the primary principle to apply is to stop emissions at the source. But pollutants in the subsoil do not constitute contamination in and of themselves; what is relevant is any possible impact on natural resources (water, soil, air). To put it bluntly, even a drum of poison does not constitute contamination - as long as it does not leak, and the poison cannot escape into the environment! Remediation measures are intended to insure that no unpermissible amounts of pollution are able to enter the environment in the long term. Cleaning up is intended to effect the long-term, sustainable elimination of the danger. It is unacceptable that over generations a site must be Subjected to intensive monitoring or cost-intensive treatment; equally, problems cannot simply be relocated from one site to another.

But that doesn't mean that every remediation requires removal of the pollutants from the site. The danger from well degradable pollutants can be eliminated with long-term securing measures or by restricting the use of the soil. Finally, remediation of contaminated sites is in the interests of the public in many cases. Efficient and cost-justified remediation is often only achieved where those affected can be broadly convinced of its necessity.

Last modification 07.07.2021

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