Site remediation in the Federal Republic of Germany is governed by the Federal Soil Protection Act which came into force on March 1, 1999. This Act makes a general
distinction between harmful soil changes and contaminated sites. A vital extension of this Act is the Federal Soil Protection and Contaminated Sites Ordinance
which governs the key elements of contaminated site management. In particular, it brings together regulations relating to the examination and assessment
of potentially hazardous sites, admissible remediation methods and supplementary regulations relating to remediation examination and planning. It contains
detailed annexes on sampling, analysis and quality assurance to prepare site surveys, on the derivation of pathway values for measures, tests and prevention,
and on requirements for remediation examination and planning.
The implementation of these regulations still applies to the Federal States.
The Federal States are responsible for identification, risk assessment and clean up of contaminated sites.
The most important objective of the Soil Protection Act is to protect soil against contamina¬tion. This includes abandoned contaminated sites. Soil contamination
has been caused where the function of the soil is impaired and where risks either for the individual or for society as a whole are implied.
Suspected contaminated sites are:
abandoned waste disposal sites are closed down waste disposal facilities as well as other sites on which wastes have been treated, stored or disposed,
abandoned industrial sites are closed down facilities and other sites on which environmentally hazardous substances arising from the use of
these sites for commercial purposes or economic enterprises have been handled
where there are concrete grounds for suspecting that harmful changes have occurred in the soil or other hazards for the individual or the general public exist.
Contaminated sites are:
abandoned waste disposal sites and
abandoned industrial sites
where there is known that alterations of the soil took place or there are other haz¬ards for the individual or for the general public.
In line with the „polluter pays“ principle the person causing the contamination is held responsible. Besides the polluter the owner or occupier are responsible
as well. Furthermore the Act offers the opportunity to limit the state liability for site owners who are neither polluter nor were aware of the contamination
when buying it. They have to bear the costs for remediation measures only up to the maximum market value of the site.
With regard to contaminated sites, the Act defines the obligations to avert risks and this is based on the relevant provisions found in the previously established
general policy and regulatory act. It also addresses harmful soil changes resulting from an area-wide diffuse pollutant input by issuing regulations aimed
at protecting natural soils and geared to the precautionary approach.
Site remediation requires statutory regulations, above all to protect the environmental media soil and water;
a higher standard of remediation (decontamination) is binding for contaminated sites coming into existence after the Act came into effect;
the concept of setting values for prevention, tests and measures is an important component of the decision-making process followed by the environmental
authorities but it should not be applied dogmatically when formulating remediation targets;
the case by case decisions on remediation must consider not least the principles of administrative law,
establishment of an overall strategic concept for dealing with contaminated sites;
environmentally sound design and licensing conditions for the operation of site relevant installations (prevention);
financial provision for the occurrence of environmental damage and for the restoration of land features following the cessation of use or the
collapse of user companies;
asking the financial service providers to cover the risks emanating from contaminated sites;
promoting the remediation of former industrial sites in preference to the depletion of green space;
public remediation agreements as an alternative to controversial decisions on remediation.