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Focus : soil condition inventory

At the end of 2014, the soil condition inventory contained 14,700 validated cadastral parcels, 76% of which were potentially polluted plots of land (categories 0 and 0+). Another 1,000 sites still needed to be validated and registered in the inventory. Storage depots for flammable liquids, vehicle maintenance workshops, spray booths, printing works, depots for hazardous products and metalworking shops account for 81% of the activities that qualify for an entry in the validated soil condition inventory.

The soil condition inventory: objective and contents

In the highly urbanised and at one time heavily industrialised territory of Brussels, there were – and still are – activities that cause soil and/or groundwater pollution. This pollution poses a hazard  to public health (e.g. by affecting the water supply through the infiltration of pollutants into watercourses or aquifers, degrading land used for food production or playgrounds, etc.) and to ecosystems.
For several years now, Brussels Environment has been engaged in creating an inventory of potentially polluted soils. This inventory was drawn up from information on present and past activities taking place on these sites and considered to be “hazardous activities” (i.e. for which odds are that they polluted the underlying soils). The main purposes of the inventory are:

  • to identify and, if necessary, treat the contaminated sites or take risk management measures (including restrictions on use) to enable them to be used for other purposes;
  • to reduce legal uncertainty in connection with real estate transactions and increase the development of new economic activities by informing in advance the persons involved, i.e. before they are faced with any remediation or risk management obligations associated with soil and/or groundwater pollution;
  • for governmental decision-making on land use, to take into account the quality of the soil.

The ordinance of 5 March 2009 on the management and remediation of contaminated soils (which supersedes an ordinance of 2004) distinguishes five soil condition categories for the sites that are included in the soil condition inventory:

  • Category 0: potentially contaminated sites, i.e. plots on which hazardous activity is carried out or was carried out. Land on which there is a suspicion of contamination following an accident or abandonment involving pollutant substances, or following the spread of pollution from neighbouring plots, etc., are also included in this category.
  • Category 1: sites that meet the decontamination standards after soil testing (risk considered to be non-existent);
  • Category 2: sites that meet the intervention standards after soil testing but not the decontamination standards (risk considered to be negligible);
  • Category 3: sites that do not meet the intervention standards after soil testing and where the risks are (or have been made) acceptable according to a risk investigation that followed the soil survey and imposed restrictions on use and/or follow-up measures);
  • Category 4: sites that do not meet the intervention standards and need treatment or are currently under treatment, i.e. plots that are currently being tested, or where decontamination is being carried out, or risk management measures are being implemented (risk considered to be non-negligible).

In practice, there is an additional category 0+ for plots that have already undergone soil testing or treatment but where new contamination concerns turned up in the meantime.

The initial draft inventory contained 21,000 plots of land from the cadastral register (out of a total of 220,000), which covered a surface equivalent to approximately 20% of the regional territory (in the case of a site considered to be contaminated, the pollution may only concern a small part of the site: see fact sheet Information resources: soil condition inventory).

Ratification of the soil condition inventory

The aim of the inventory validation, which began on 1 January 2011, is to inform in writing all owners and operators of land which is presumed to be contaminated (category 0) or actually is contaminated (categories 3 or 4) - which equates to around 35,000 people - by providing them with the detailed information which Brussels Environment possesses on the subject. The people concerned can contest this information, which is based on substantiated data, either by documents specifying the activities carried out on the land, or by an exploratory soil survey of the condition of the soil. Based on the information which it might then receive, Brussels Environment will decide whether or not to keep the land in question in the soil condition inventory.

During a previous validation phase (2007-2009), 2,580 plots of land had already been validated and registered in the soil inventory. At the end of 2014, 12,840 plots had been validated according to the new procedure, and 10,750 of these were registered in the soil condition inventory in accordance with the procedure in the "soil" ordinance.  The related decisions were communicated to more than 24,300 owners and operators. At the time, taking into account the plots which had been validated according to the old procedure, as well as plots which were automatically validated (categories 1 and 2), the inventory included a total of 14,700 plots.  However there were still 1,000 plots to be validated and registered in the inventory if necessary.

Storage depots for flammable liquids, vehicle maintenance workshops, spray booths, printing works, depots for hazardous products and metalworking shops account for 81% of the activities that qualify for an entry in the validated soil condition inventory.  The contamination can be produced, for example, by accidents, spillages/corrosion in tanks (fuel oil, solvents, etc.), poorly sealed storage, upgrading or development works on land using materials which have not been verified, due to landfill/waste treatment, run-off of pollutant substances, or dustfall on bare soil from manufacturing tools.

Soil condition inventory: distribution of the 14,700 cadastral plots registered in the soil condition inventory according to their allegedly hazardous activities, which justified their inclusion in the inventory  (31 December 2014)
Source: Brussels Environment, sous-div. Soils, 2015


The 14,700 sites currently registered in the inventory are broken down into different categories, the categories 0 and 0+  (see above) being largely dominant with 76 %.

Soil condition inventory: distribution of the 14,700 cadastral plots registered in the soil condition inventory according to their categories (31 December 2014)
Source: Brussels Environment, sous-div. Soils, 2015

Soil condition map

The validated data from the inventory have been used to prepare a soil condition map. At the end of 2013, this interactive map was put online by Brussels Environment to ensure rapid access to information on the soil quality of Brussels sites. The information on the map, which is continuously updated, is purely indicative: these data do not replace soil certificates.

This map shows the currently validated sites, classified according to the 5 categories described above.

Map of the soil condition inventory: Brussels Region (September 2015)
Source: Brussels Environment, sous-div. Soils, 2015


For each of the mapped plots, an identification sheet shows information including the address, the cadastral references, the surface area, the references of the soil investigations, etc.

Soil certificates

In certain situations, in particular the sale of a home or plot of land or of a company with a hazardous activity, the seller must present a soil certificate – issued by Brussels Environment – which indicates whether or not the site is listed in the inventory and, if so, the detailed information that is recorded about this site. For sites that are listed in the inventory, the Soil Ordinance requires that the seller of a plot of land or company with a hazardous activity must carry out an exploratory soil survey and assume any liabilities arising from any identified soil contamination that exceeds the standards (see fact sheet Identification and treatment of contaminated soils).

Between 2005 and December 2014, a total of 190,586 soil certificates were issued. A total of 3,295,125€ was collected in fees for these certificates, for which payment has been required since 1 November 2010.

Datum van de update: 18/12/2017