It is generally agreed that severely polluted soil must be decontaminated, especially in residential areas. But the fact that different private parties - often "non-liable owners" - are involved makes possible remediation also more complex. In order to speed up the complex and costly procedure of examination and remediation, the Soil Decree offers the possibility to combine a numer of parcels into a so-called 'site'. In the context of this definition of "site", a "residential area" can be described as the whole of parcels of land, the current residential function of which is affected by previous soil polluting activities. When such a site is defined, it becomes juridically possible to conduct a global soil-investigation.
This type of approach offers benefits to all involved parties because of the larger scale of the operation, and this in terms of costing, exploratory and remediation strategy, analysis and reporting, and the implementation term within which an end result can be achieved. It may involve a residential district developed on the site of an old dumping ground, a cluster of potentially polluted and inhabited locations in the city centre, a residential district located on potentially contaminated land with an industrial past, and similar sites.
At the end of 2001, an initial trial project was conducted in the residential area "Schuurveld" in Scherpenheuvel-Zichem, followed by a larger one on the former landfill in the "Kesseldal" district in Kessel-Lo . In each case, the exploratory and descriptive survey as described by the Soil Remediation Decree was performed as one single ex officio soil survey. For both these residential districts, remediation works were not found necessary.The selection of the next eligible residential areas involved cities with a distinct central function. The following projects were launched:
To ensure a good course of the projects, huge efforts are done to involve municipalities.
First, these local authorities are sometimes responsible for the contamination. OVAM tries to come to cooperation-treaties with such municipalities to divide the costs of soil-investigation. OVAM has developed a partition key depending on the period in which the contamination was caused and the period in which habitation of the area started.
Second, municipalities are much closer with their inhabitants. Quite often, the environmental service of these municipalities is the first place where people come to ask questions.
Third, the organisation of meetings with inhabitants of contaminated residential areas is much easier when municipalities are involved in the project.