UN Enviroment Programme

Chapter 13. Actions to tackle soil pollution

Immediate risk reduction measures

While detailed investigations are being undertaken and the remediation strategy is being developed, emergency risk reduction measures should be put in place immediately to safeguard public health and the environment. These measures should be simple and quick to implement. However, a risk assessment should be undertaken first to avoid risks of further exposure during their implementation. Examples of such measures can include:

  • stopping further release of the contaminant into the soil;
  • covering the polluted area with an impermeable layer to prevent release of vapours and rain-water runoff and leaching;
  • briefing local communities about the risks of the site;
  • erecting warning signage;
  • securing the site for example with a fence, to restrict access to the public and livestock;
  • restricting the use of the land to non-food production;
  • warning public and restricting use of harvested crops or livestock products for food; and,
  • providing an alternative safe water supply.

Some remediation strategies take years to implement especially where external funding needs to be raised. This is often the case in low to middle-income countries. In the meantime, implementing such emergency measures will ensure that the public is protected and exacerbation of the pollution is minimized. Where there is a long delay between the emergency measures and the implementation of the remediation strategy, the impacted communities and the site should be monitored to ensure that the measures remain effective (Toichuev et al., 2017; Weber et al., 2019, 2018).