"De Grote Grondvraag": a useful tool for analysing the state of the soil in Flanders

On 5 November 2019, OVAM, the Public Waste Agency of the Flemish Region ("Openbare Vlaamse Afvalstoffenmaatschappij"), made a public database available which anyone can search to determine whether a plot of land is potentially polluted. This information is available on the website https://degrotegrondvraag.be.

De Grote Grondvraag: what’s in a name?

Each municipality manages an inventory of plots of land "at risk" which are located on its territory. The municipality has to inform OVAM of the inclusion or deletion of a plot of land in the municipal inventory. OVAM also holds its own inventory, which includes information that is transmitted to OVAM and the information it obtains following soil surveys or other measures.

This information is now publicly available in a simplified form. The database is not, however, legally binding.

At present, soil information is publicly available for 110 Flemish municipalities (the Flemish Region now counts 300 municipalities).

For important cities such as Ghent, Antwerp, Bruges, Kortrijk and Leuven, there is currently no information available. The intention is nevertheless to further extend the database.

De Grote Grondvraag: identifying plots of land "at risk"

De Grote Grondvraag identifies plots of land "at risk" in Flanders. Before (amongst other things) the transfer of such a plot, the transferor has to commission an exploratory soil study. In addition, plots of land "at risk" which have never been surveyed need to be subject to an exploratory soil study before well-defined dates (before 31 December 2021 or before 31 January 2027, depending on the type of plot). OVAM seeks to start decontamination for all (historically) polluted ground not later than in 2036.

The purpose of De Grote Grondvraag is therefore to inform citizens, in a user-friendly way, about the qualification of their plot of land as a plot of land "at risk", and about possible surveying obligations. Based on this information, citizens can notify OVAM of the possible incorrect recording of a plot as a plot of land "at risk" or can request an exemption from the surveying obligations (see https://www.degrotegrondvraag.be/veelgestelde-vragen).

De Grote Grondvraag: how can you use it?

The website is user-friendly and gives information at the level of the plot of land.

The following results are available, depending on the situation:

  • Green plot of land: OVAM does not have soil information, and there are no indications that the plot of land would be "at risk". No further action is required.
  • Yellow plot of land: OVAM has information about the soil status of the plot of land. This information can be retrieved on the website and from OVAM customer management.
  • Orange plot of land: The plot is a plot of land "at risk" with exemption from the surveying obligations. OVAM will assume the surveying obligations.
  • Red plot of land: The plot is a plot of land "at risk".

De Grote Grondvraag: a first indication

De Grote Grondvraag gives a first indication of the state of the soil. However, in the course of real estate transactions, more detailed soil information, such as the soil attestation, still needs to be requested from OVAM.