Comparison of risk assessment methods for polluted soils in Sweden, Norway and Denmark
Land contamination is an acknowledged problem around the world due to its potentially adverse impacts on human health and the environment. Specifically in Europe there are estimated to be 2,500,000 potentially contaminated sites. The risk that contaminated sites pose is investigated by risk assessments. The methods and the models though used in risk assessments, vary both on a national and an international level.
In this study, the risk assessment methods and models for polluted soils used in Scandinavia and issued by the Environmental Protection Agencies were compared. The comparison aimed to (i) identify similarities and differences in the risk assessment methodology and risk assessment methods and to (ii) investigate to which extend these differences can impact the results of the models and the implications regarding mitigation measures.
The method and model comparison showed that Sweden and Norway have great similarities in assessing risks for contaminated soil. However, there are differences with Denmark on a conceptual level. When a common hypothetical petrol station with 20 soil samples was assessed, the results and the conclusions of the three risk assessments were quite different; the site was seen as posing risk to human health with the Danish model when complied with the quality criteria issued by the Norwegian model. The Swedish risk assessment concluded that the contaminant concentration in 3 out of 20 samples was potentially harmful for the environment but not for human health.
The demonstrated divergence of the conclusions of risk assessments has major implications and shows great interest for mainly four groups: Land-owners who may be called to cover the expenses for remedial action. Consultants and companies who perform risk assessments and land remediation. The countries that have to meet national and international environmental goals and can also share/ or cover the cost for remedial action. The people exposed to such environments that could be deemed as potentially harmful by a neighboring country.
The study was conducted in collaboration with URS Nordic.
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