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An innovative method for the on-site remediation of polluted soil under existing infrastructures

Final Report Summary - CLEANSOIL (An innovative method for the on-site remediation of polluted soil under existing infrastructures)

Soil pollution with harmful substances (heavy metals, PCB, chlorinated hydrocarbons, etc.) is a global problem nowadays. Soil pollution most often results in pollution of groundwater and this in turn in harmful consequences for human, animal and plant health. If in the EU 1.5 million polluted sites have been estimated, it is agreed that in the NIS the number is at least comparable, including former military sites, airports, fuel stations, machinery repair stations and industrial production sites.

Today, the most generally used method to address land pollutants is to excavate and remove the polluted land, which is then treated or transported to a landfill at another location. As a rule, this is a costly method that results in a heavy environmental load, due to long transport distances, among other factors. Moreover, in many cases the excavation is not an option due to financial or technical reasons. The development of new technologies for the removal of pollutants from the soil has thus become a priority.

The CLEANSOIL project aims to develop and promote a very simple and cost-efficient alternative to enable the on-site, in-situ treatment of hazardous substances, especially targeted for large areas of polluted land and causing minimum site disturbance. Therefore, the system is applicable to the remediation of soil below buildings, roads, pipelines, railroads, etc, for both local and / or diffuse contamination, and even for preventive applications.

The method consists on the insertion of several chords connecting a multitude of sorbent material containing sockets inside the same number of parallel horizontal holes drilled in the ground. The sorbents can then absorb the pollutants. After a period of time sufficient to attain the desired remediation effect, the system is removed and the sorbent regenerated for further application. The present project studied the application of this new method for a wide range of contaminated soils by making the necessary adaptations and by testing the performance of different sorbent materials in order to establish selective systems for each kind of pollutant.

The main technical objectives targeted within the CLEANSOIL project were:
- to develop and to test an innovative, simple, easy to handle, applicable under existing infrastructures and cost-effective on-site and in-situ soil remediation method able to achieve a degree of soil remediation that allows its reutilisation for different purposes;
- to find the suitable types, amounts and characteristics for sorbent materials or bacteria able to remove chlorinated solvents, petroleum hydrocarbons, heavy metals etc;
- to establish soil and hydrological conditions in the system (borings, pipes and absorption system) good enough to allow the application of the CLEANSOIL method to very different soil conditions.

From the environmental point of view, the proposed project aimed:
- to contribute to the development of methods for the remediation of contaminated soils up to the restoration of its vital functions, applicable both in the EU and the NIS;
- to contribute to the development of methods able to avoid groundwater contamination and the spread of pollution from leaching.

The project also had social objectives:
- to raise awareness about the environmental / health / economic problems linked to soil pollution, and to inform and involve other relevant actors and stakeholders beyond the consortium;
- to strengthen the exchange of knowledge between EU and NIS scientists.