Contaminated areas in Sweden Sweden’s long industrial history has left behind a large number of contaminated sites. These sites must be investigated, evaluated, and if necessary, remediated. Share Contact Listen Contaminated sites are often related to industrial sites as a result of inadequate management of chemicals and/or waste, or from inadequate or non-existent treatment of wastewater. Contamination has been caused by both public enterprises and private companies. In many cases, contamination is caused by substances, operations or waste disposal methods that are not in accordance with current environmental legislation. Impact Contamination can result in the dispersal of hazardous substances in soil, sediment, groundwater and surface water. At some sites, the contamination may pose a risk to human health, cause irreversible environmental damage, or make the land unsuitable for some types of land use. Remediation Remediation is needed when a land or water area, a building or a facility is contaminated to such an extent that it entails unacceptable risks to human health, the environment or natural resources. Remedial actions are intended to reduce such risks to acceptable levels. The role of the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (Swedish EPA) is to coordinate, prioritise, provide guidance and follow up on the remediation of contaminated sites at a national level. The Swedish EPA also administers governmental grants for the remediation of contaminated sites and evaluates their effects. Furthermore, the Swedish EPA is involved in international cooperation concerning remediation of contaminated sites both within the EU and globally. Compendium The Swedish EPA has assembled a compendium describing the process involved in the remediation of contaminated sites in Sweden. This compendium is meant to be a complement to be used in our international cooperation and is meant to provide an overview of what the process looks like in Sweden with respect to Swedish legislation and working methods. The first part of the compendium offers a brief introduction to the Swedish system, including how Sweden is governed and the driving forces behind the environmental work connected to the remediation of contaminated sites in Sweden. It also describes the tools available to reach the goals set to ensure a safe environment for present and future generations. The second part of this compendium describes the process behind the remediation of contaminated sites. It describes all steps involved in the process, from the identification of a contaminated site to choosing a suitable remediation method. The compendium is a summary of our existing national guidance and contains references to more detailed reports in English when such are available. This compendium is not a fixed document and will be updated when necessary to keep up with changes in legislation and national guidance. Compendium Remediation of contaminated sites in Sweden 2021 (pdf 2 MB) Environmental law in remediation of contaminated sites The Environmental Protection Act from 1969 dramatically strengthened the role of the State in the protection of the environment. In 1989, these provisions were strengthened to assign responsibility for remediation of sites solely on the basis that a site was contaminated. The Swedish Environmental Code is Sweden’s most comprehensive piece of environmental legislation and entered into force on 1 January 1999. The Environmental Code was based on 15 environmental acts, which were all reviewed and consolidated into one single act. Chapter 10 of the Environmental Code contains provisions concerning contaminated sites and the remediation thereof. There it is stated that the operator, who is presently operating or previously operated a site which is polluted, is considered liable for conducting investigations and if necessary, remediation, of the site. The above is based on what is often called the "Polluter Pays Principle". However, if a polluting activity ceased before the introduction of the Environmental Protection Act in 1969, the polluter cannot be held liable. Where a responsible polluter cannot be identified or held responsible, public funding may be used to conduct investigations and remediation. This funding is administered by the Swedish EPA. Stakeholders involved in the remediation of contaminated sites The Swedish EPA has been working with remediation of contaminated sites for several decades together with the County Administrative Boards and local municipalities. But there are many other organizations contributing to the work on remediation of contaminated sites – including the Geological Survey of Sweden, the Swedish Geotechnical Institute and the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management, as well as higher education institutes and private operators. The Swedish Geotechnical Society and "the Clean Soil Network" are non-profit networks of organizations including consultants, researchers, government authorities, and remedial contractors, who coordinate the exchange of information and experiences in meetings, conferences and courses. National inventory of potentially contaminated sites In order to identify contaminated sites in Sweden, the County Administrative Boards have, with the support of the Swedish EPA, carried out an extensive inventory of sites which previously had, or currently have, operations that may cause contamination of soil, sediment, surface water and groundwater. Examples of such activities are chemical industries, dry cleaners, mines or sawmills. The inventory was conducted between 1999 and 2015 and resulted in the identification of approximately 85 000 potentially contaminated sites in Sweden, of which around 26 000 are classified according to potential risk. About 1 200 of these sites are classified as risk class 1 and may constitute a "Very high risk to human health and the environment”, and around 8 000 sites are classified as risk class 2, "High risk to human health and the environment". Sites in class 1 and 2 are prioritized to receive funding from the Swedish EPA to be investigated and, if needed, remediated. However, identifying a site as risk class 1 during the inventory does not necessarily mean it is contaminated to such an extent that it constitutes a very high risk to human health and the environment. Site investigations and studies have to be conducted to verify if the site truly is contaminated. Today, approximately 128 of the most severely contaminated sites in Sweden have been remediated with funding from the Swedish EPA.