Projects per year
Historic and current agricultural and industrial activities have resulted in accumulation of Cd, Cu, Pb and Zn in soil. To estimate potential risks for ecosystems, agriculture and water quality, an integrated risk assessment was performed for The Netherlands. Risks of metal contamination were assessed on a national scale by comparing present soil concentrations of Cd, Pb, Cu and Zn with critical concentrations of those metals in view of agricultural impacts, ecological impacts and impacts on the quality of groundwater and surface waters. Results show that present soil metal concentrations cause few risks for agriculture or ecosystems; for less than 2% of the surface area present metal levels exceed critical limits. Critical limits for groundwater are only significantly exceeded for Pb (17% of the area), but critical limits for surface water are exceeded throughout the country for Cu and Zn. Taking critical limits used in The Netherlands, the area where exceedances take place is nearly negligible for Cd and low for Pb (less than 3%), but much larger (between 40% and 50%) for both Cu and Zn. Results from this study suggest that accumulation of heavy metals in Dutch soils at present primarily affects the quality of surface waters. This stresses the need for harmonization of soil and water policy. Measures to reduce the load in surface waters to meet target levels, under conditions like those prevailing in The Netherlands, are bound to have an impact on land management.