Correct use of terms

Contaminated site

A site the contamination of which is caused by waste and is of limited dimension (Ordinance on the Decontamination of Contaminated Sites – Contaminated Land Ordinance (AltlV 2 Para 1). This includes landfill sites, operational sites and accident sites. Contaminated sites may require decontamination. Sites which do not require decontamination may be left provided that the contamination is not moved.

Abandoned hazardous sites

Abandoned hazardous sites are contaminated sites in need of decontamination (qualified facts). A site is in need of decontamination when it occasions harmful or burdensome effects or when there is a concrete danger that such effects may arise (AltlV 3 Para 2 and 3).

Abandoned hazardous sites do not necessarily differ in their nature from contaminated sites in need of decontamination; the only difference often lies in their hazard potential due to their specific location (e.g. close to groundwater occurrences). There may be so-called hotspots within the area of a contaminated site which does not require decontamination, i.e. abandoned hazardous sites which require decontamination; in such cases clear demarcation is necessary in order to avoid unnecessary investigation and disposal costs.

Furthermore, the thresholds which qualify a contaminated site to become an abandoned hazardous site are different depending on the potentially endangered property (e.g. groundwater or surface water). The demarcation must therefore be considered to be much differentiated.


When material is excavated from a contaminated site – whether or not this site requires decontamination – this becomes waste and must be disposed of in accordance with the regulations. Due to the fact that the material from an abandoned hazardous site can have the same characteristics as those of a contaminated site which is not in need of decontamination, the price for disposing of or cleaning such materials is the same.

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