Glossary Entry:- France Contaminated land
Site presenting a real or potential long-lasting risk for human health or the environment as a result
of the pollution of a given milieu, resulting from former or current human activity
Increasing attention has been paid to contaminated sites and soil in France over the last 15 years.
This has resulted in new laws, methodological guidelines for contaminated site management and systems
of financing. These tools, like those of other European countries, are based on risk assessment and
1. General Approach
Land contaminated by industrial activities over the past two centuries has been a major concern for
at least 20 years. The French policy for dealing with this issue was developed within the framework
of the Classified Installations (ICPE) Law. Its principles and implementation are very similar
to those of other European countries.
The policy is backed by actions 10 and 11 of the National Health and Environment Plan (PNSE 2004-2008):
•Action 10: Improve drinking water quality by protecting drinking water supply wells from point-source
and diffuse pollution
•Action 11: Reduce water and soil contamination due to pesticides and potentially dangerous substances
This policy focuses on two main concepts:
•Risk analysis and management rather than consideration of an intrinsic level of pollution
•Management based on the use of the site
A contaminated site represents a risk for the population only if all of the three following elements
•a source of contamination (Source)
•a target population that is exposed to the contamination (Receptor)
•a transfer pathway towards humans and/or the environment (Pathway)
The French Policy for contaminated sites seeks, therefore, to:
•prevent future contamination
•ensure the safety of recently discovered contaminated sites by acting immediately to confine
the site (eliminate all substances that might cause fire, explosion or pollution) and monitoring
•assess, monitor and mitigate impact
•treat and remediate the site in a manner suitable to its use, and perpetuate this use
•keep records of contamination and involve all stakeholders
2. Policy and Regulation
French policy in the field of contaminated sites and soil is based on a limited number of principles
that make it possible to deal with the problem in a clear and logical manner:
•an active prevention of future contamination
•a thorough knowledge, accessible to all, of potential risks
•a suitable treatment of the site in terms of its real impact on the environment and its planned use,
based on a detailed risk assessment
The basic principles of the French approach are:
•The precautionary principle (defined in Law no. 95-101 of February 2, 1995), which states that
the uncertainty inherent in current scientific and technical knowledge should not delay the adoption
of measures intended to prevent the risk of serious and irreversible damage to the environment, at
an acceptable cost.
•The proportionality principle, which ensures that the degree of detail of the study is consistent
with the extent of the contamination and its predictable effects. This generally leads to the use
of an iterative procedure – prior understanding of a site can be extremely useful for the optimal design
of the necessary studies and work.
•The specificity principle, which states that remediation work should eliminate the development
or persistence of risks or harm to humans or other identified targets (ecosystems, water resources,
etc.). The aim of remediation is therefore determined on a case-by-case basis using a site-specific
approach based on the assessment of the potential risks and on the owner/operator's intended use
of the site (a so-called functional and specific approach).
•The transparency principle, which aims at imposing rules so that choices (working hypotheses,
tools used, degree of detail, understanding, residual uncertainties, etc.) inherent in the risk
assessment procedure are presented, explained and discussed, in particular when the stakeholders
These principles are based on the observation that the fundamental problem is the risk of the transport
of pollutants towards identified targets. Various tools have been developed for addressing the
problems that commonly arise when managing polluted sites and soil, in particular those concerning
the identification of sites presenting the greatest risk, their study and, if necessary, their remediation.
In recent years, working groups organized by the French Ministry in charge of the environment have
developed methodological guidelines to facilitate the management of contaminated sites and soil.
These form a toolbox that can be used for addressing specific problems. These technical documents
were modified in 2007, in order to take into account experience feedback.
The new procedures make it possible to manage cases individually. Generic references that take
into account all possible environmental exposure scenarios provide a framework. Two management
steps have been identified:
Step 1. Acquire knowledge and understanding: the conceptual site model
Step 2. Undertake actions when required (simple measures or a management plan)
Two site management procedures are recommended:
1.If the future uses of the site have already been decided, determine whether this use is compatible
with the state of the environment (Media Quality Assessment (MQA) or Interpretation de l'état des
2.If uses can still be decided upon or the state of the environment can be improved, remediate the
site and develop a Management Plan.
The only law for managing the remediation of soil contaminated by industry was that of July 19, 1976
concerning Classified Installations (included, in September 2000, in the Environment Act), and
its application decree of September 21, 1977 (see below). Previously, the first general text regulating
installations that are sources of nuisances or risks was the imperial decree of October 15, 1810,
which established three classes for factories and workshops that emitted unhealthy or offensive
odours. The law of December 19, 1917 concerning dangerous, unhealthy and disruptive establishments
revised these regulations by replacing the authorization required for the 3rd class with a declaration.
The law of July 19, 1976 concerning Classified Installations for the Protection of the Environment
updated the law of 1917, notably by extending its scope to include all installations regardless of
their legal status and increasing the government’s powers of action. It was significantly modified
by the laws of July 3, 1985, in particular, notably increasing penalties, of July 22, 1987 concerning
major risks, of July 13, 1992 (2 laws) concerning waste and genetically modified organisms, of January
4, 1993 concerning quarries and of February 2, 1995 concerning the strengthening of the Protection
of the Environment, of July 30, 2003 concerning industrial risks. On September 21, 2000, it was assimilated
into the Environment Act. National policy and the measures to be applied are defined in circulars
issued by the Minister in charge of the environment to the Prefects of the departments (who represent
the central government).
The Decree of September 13, 2005 concerning derelict Classified Installations describes how
to carry out quantitative risk assessments, execute industrial site security and risk management
measures, undertake site remediation with the best available techniques under acceptable economic
conditions depending on future use, and implement usage restrictions.
Other important regulatory documents that address contaminated sites are:
•Law of July 15, 1975 concerning Waste disposal and material recovery
•Law of July 19, 1976, concerning Environmental permits for Classified Installations for the
Protection of the Environment (“ICPE law”)
•Law of January 1992 concerning Water resource management and protection (“Water law”)
•Law of July 13, 1992 concerning Municipal solid waste management
•Law of February 2, 1995 concerning the Funding of orphan sites
In 2007, new circulars came into effect in order to update the management methodology for contaminated
sites and soil:
•Ministry of Ecology Memorandum of February 8, 2007 concerning Contaminated sites and soil - Contaminated
site management and remediation procedures
•Ministry of Ecology Circular of February 8, 2007 concerning Classified Installations - Prevention
of soil contamination – Contaminated land management
Other circulars for Classified Installations, concerning the chain of liability, orphan sites
and the remediation of contaminated sites for facilities where sensitive populations gather also
came into effect on February 8, 2007 (see Brownfields).
Site Project Funding
Wherever the polluter is at hand or known, the 'polluter–pays' principle is strictly applied. The
current chain of liability is: the last industry that is responsible under the law on Environmental
Permits for industrial sites; by default, the last owner. This chain of liability covers studies,
monitoring, remediation work, and even costs associated with land-use restrictions (as a result
of plant monitoring or residual contamination).
In 1992, French industries founded the “French Organization of Enterprises for the Environment”,
EPE. This organization signed a 5-year agreement with the French Agency for Environment and Energy
Management (ADEME) for the remediation of contaminated sites, and created a fund for this purpose
with an annual budget of about € 2.3 M. Remediation projects for which the liable parties either could
not be found or were insolvent were funded under the auspices of the ADEME. The system worked rather
efficiently until the end of 1994, when it became obvious that the budget was insufficient to cover
the actual needs. As a result, the Industrial Waste Tax was created in February 1995.
The remediation of orphan sites is funded by a tax created in February 1995 concerning hazardous
industrial waste. The moneys collected are allocated to investigations and clean-up work. Initially
set at € 3.8 per ton of industrial waste, the tax was increased to € 6.1 per ton in 1998. Revenues from
this new tax amounted to about € 10.5 M the first year and had increased to € 15.3 M by 1998. A national
committee manages this Industrial Waste Tax and has funded 37 projects at orphan sites, for a total
cost of approximately € 30.5 M. In 1999, this tax was included in the TGAP (General Tax on Polluting
Activities). Remediation is limited to mitigating actual or potential risks to the environment
and human safety.
France's six Water Authorities (Agences de l’Eau), provide grants and/or low-interest loans
for site investigations and clean-up work. The Water Authorities intervene in cases of contaminated
industrial sites that have an impact on the aquatic environment. The loans are supposed to cover about
50 percent of the total cost of studies and remediation work. The actual amount of the grants or loans
is determined by the Water Authority and ranges between 30 and 70 %, depending on the water-resource
area. Water Authorities also grant subsidies for investing in and operating equipment contributing
to the reduction of water pollution. These funds come from taxes on water consumption and pollution.
No further funding information available on the EUGRIS system
In 1999, the total turnover for the contaminated land activities sector in France was 167,000 K €.
It was expected to reach 305,000 K € in 2005.
The predicted expenditure for contaminated sites and soil in the private sector for 2005 was 803,000
K € (Studies: 64 %, Treatment: 36 %, Research: 0,24 %).
In 1999, the predicted turnover for contaminated sites and soil in the public sector for 2005 had
been 41,060 K€ (Studies: 44 %, Treatment: 51 %, Research: 5 %).
These figures should be used with caution since the market study was based on a survey of a very limited
number of companies using a questionnaire.
Professional associations in the contaminated land activities sector can provide additional
information, including commercial data. These include:
FNADE: Fédération Nationale des Activités de la Dépollution et de l'Environnement
UCIE: Union des Consultants et Ingénieurs en Environnement
UPDS: Union Professionnelle des Entreprises de Dépollution de Sites
4: Management tools / decision support and guidance
No further information available
Ministère de l'Ecologie et du Développement Durable
Sites et sols pollués : la Politique Nationale, les grands principes
Note MEDD DPPR/SEI/BPSPR - Décembre 2004
Évaluation du marché présent et futur des prestations liées au traitement des sites et sols pollués
en France - Pages d'information du MEDD en date du 9 juillet 2002 - Evaluation du marché en 2000 et évolution
Plan National Santé-Environnement 2004-2008 - Ministère de la Santé et de la Protection Sociale,
Ministère de l'Ecologie et du Développement durable, Ministère de l'Emploi, du Travail et de la Cohésion
sociale, Ministère délégué à la Recherche
Darmendrail D. (2003) - The French Approach to Contaminated Land Management - Revision 1. BRGM/RP-52276-FR,
148 p., 3 Fig., 3 Tables, 6 App.
Web Portal about Contaminated soils and sites of the French Ministry of Ecology, Energy, Sustainable
Development and the Sea