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Content archived on 2024-05-29

Integrated treatment of industrial wastes towards prevention of regional water resources contamination

Final Report Summary - INTREAT (Integrated treatment of industrial wastes towards prevention of regional water resources contamination)

The Balkan countries are characterised by the presence of valuable mineral resources, which are intensively exploited. However, these activities result in severe environmental impacts related to the contamination of air, soil and surface and groundwater. The INTREAT project aimed to assist in mitigating these effects. More specifically, its objectives were to:
1. study the interaction of the environment and the mining and metallurgical activities in the western Balkans and assess the associated risks and impacts with respect to their effects on human health and environment, focusing on soil and regional water resources;
2. develop preventive and remedial technologies in order to inhibit further pollution, via the elimination of waste production, and permanently rehabilitate the polluted media.

For the achievement of these objectives, two unrelated and characteristic sites located in the two target countries, namely Serbia and the former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia, were selected to serve as subjects of study. The extent of the generated contamination in these case studies affected a number of media and endangered the quality of regional ecosystems, with regional water bodies being the most critically exposed resource.

Firstly, a legislative framework was identified, aiming to provide guidelines for quality standards for managing and treating solid waste and wastewater. The framework was employed as a tool for the evaluation of the project proposals. Secondly, the study areas were environmentally characterised and a risk assessment study was undertaken with respect to the potential and actual environmental impairment for the main receptors and affected media.

Moreover, technologies were developed for the inhibition of further pollution emanating from hazardous waste dumps, as well as for the permanent rehabilitation of the polluted media. The alternatives were technically and economically evaluated and the best options were selected based on their effectiveness in the field tests performed. Similarly, industrial wastewater streams of the copper metallurgical process were characterised and treatment options were proposed and evaluated. An integrated environmental management strategy was also conceptualised, based on the research outcomes.

The project was highly successful and led to a breakthrough in scientific and technological results through the development of innovative environmental technologies. In addition, it contributed to the compliance of the western Balkans' national legislation with the European environmental standards and regulations. Finally, INTREAT assisted in national policy development in environment-related fields through the application of novel research tools and platforms.