French contaminated land policy "confused"

Report to government cites widespread need for legislative, administrative, changes

Modernisation of contaminated land management in France will require wide-ranging legislative and administrative changes, according to a report prepared by the country's industry ministry. The report says the current system operates under a reign of "confusion" and that there will be no quick fix. It was completed in April and made public by the environment ministry today.

The report acknowledges efforts over the past decade to estimate how many contaminated sites exist (ENDS Daily 7 November 1997) and to improve soil remediation techniques, but focuses on the large amount of work remaining to be done.

A two-pronged approach is needed, it says. For industrial sites currently in use, a prevention programme should be created requiring companies to undertake regular soil testing and, if necessary, remediate. For abandoned, "orphan" sites, where contamination occurred before a 1976 law governing industrial sites, the report recommends a separate action plan.

The authors stop short of recommending the creation of a new law for soil - following on from laws for water and air - but stress that many people interviewed raised the issue and that such a law should not be ruled out. Recommendations include legal revisions in several areas, including specification of who is responsible for soil remediation, what level of remediation must be achieved, clarification of liability in the case of court-ordered liquidation, and increased powers for authorities ordering remediation work.

Other recommendations that could be implemented without new legislation include obligatory pollution insurance policies for all classified sites, financial savings plans to ensure companies build up the necessary funds to decontaminate sites, and a system for guaranteeing that companies' environmental liability ends once a site has been remediated.

Follow Up:
French industry ministry, tel: +33 1 40 04 04 04; French environment ministry tel: +33 1 42 19 20 21, and the report.

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