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Focus : financing of works for the remediation and management of contaminated soils

Between 2007 and 2014, 2015 grants were awarded to help with the realisation of investigations (exploratory soil surveys, detailed serveys, risk serveys, remediation work, limited remediation work, risk-management proposals and final assessment investigations) and treatment work in the event of contamination or suspicions of orphan contamination.  At the end of 2014, soil remediation was carried out or started at 216 fuel stations with technical and/or financial assistance (sometimes retroactive) from the non-profit organisation BOFAS. For the rehabilitation of industrial wasteland, the Greenfields programme, co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Brussels-Capital Region, made it possible to provide support for 12 economic projects between 2010 and 2014.

Context of financing

The Brussels ordinance of 5 March 2009 on the management and remediation of contaminated soils sets the context for and determines the obligations regarding remediation and management of the environmental and health risks incurred by the owners and/or operators of contaminated or potentially contaminated sites (see documented fact sheet Management of contaminated soils in the Brussels-Capital Region: general framework). According to the current data of the soil condition inventory, this obligation applied to approximately 16,000 cadastral register plots and 35,000 parties (cf. focus fact sheet: Information tool: Soil condition inventory).

The soil surveys which enable this diagnosis to be made and which, where contamination is found, enable the risk level to be estimated, can represent a non-negligible cost to the parties expected to implement them. Moreover, these parties are not necessarily those responsible for the actual or potential contamination of the land concerned. Because of this, the territory of Brussels currently has many contaminated or potentially contaminated sites where remediation and redeployment have been slowed down or impeded by the high cost of identifying and treating any contamination that is found.

To make it easier to tackle this contamination, which not only has an impact on regional economic development and job creation, but also carries risks to public health and the environment, the Brussels-Capital Region has set up various economic tools, including in particular grants for carrying out soil surveys and treatment works, sectoral funds (for fuel stations) and the “Brussels Greenfields” programme.

Grants providing help with the realisation of soil surveys and treatment works for the orphan contamination of soils

In the case of orphan contamination (in other words, contamination for which no responsible party can be identified), grants can be awarded, as long as certain conditions are met, to provide financial assistance for the realisation of an exploratory survey of the soil, a detailed survey or a risk survey. 

Since 2007, 2015 grants have been awarded by the Brussels Region, representing a total amount of 3.5 million euros, for the realisation of investigations and treatment works for orphan contamination in soils.

The fuel station soil remediation fund: “BOFAS”

Following the conclusion of an interregional cooperation agreement, a fund was established in 2004 for the remediation of the soil on the sites of fuel stations intended for sales to the public. The fund is financed by a contribution collected on petrol and diesel and based both on the profit margin of the oil sector and the price at the pump.

At the end of 2014, 82 closed-down fuel stations located in the Brussels Region underwent or saw the start of soil remediation work supported by BOFAS. The remaining 12 will undergo such work by 2019. In addition, the soil at 66 stations had already been decontaminated by the station’s operator, which is eligible for a full or partial retroactive refund. Finally, 68 fuel stations which were continuing their activities were brought into line with the standards by their operator, after being decontaminated with the technical and financial support of BOFAS.

The “Brussels Greenfields” programme

At the end of 2008, the Brussels government approved the Brussels Greenfields project. This project is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Brussels-Capital Region in the context of the Operational Programme Objective for 2013 “Investing together in urban development”. The goal of this regional programme is to help companies to establish themselves in the priority intervention zone around the Canal. However, this area has undergone centuries of industrialisation and thus finds itself faced with soil contamination, in some cases severe, which represents a significant barrier to economic development.

The “Brussels Greenfields” programme was therefore introduced to prevent the soil in the Canal Area from becoming even more contaminated and to support its remediation. Supported projects must also contribute to the economic revival of the area and promote the construction of buildings with high environmental and energy performance. Since its launch, the Brussels Greenfields programme has selected 12 projects with a view to the creation of economic activities which will provide approximately 2,200 (direct and indirect) jobs and which are expected to have a significant positive impact on the community. The grants awarded to the recipients by Brussels Greenfields are worth over 2.1 million euros in total.

Datum van de update: 18/12/2017