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Reduction of environmental risks, posed by Emerging Contaminants, through advanced treatment of municipal and industrial wastes

Final Report Summary - EMCO (Reduction of environmental risks, posed by emerging contaminants, through advanced treatment of municipal and industrial wastes)

The EMCO project addressed the issue of 'emerging' or 'new' contaminants, i.e. human and veterinary drugs, surfactants and textile dyes, whose emissions were recently identified as an emerging environmental concern. The project focused on their tracing, in industrial and municipal effluents, and removal, using advanced water treatment technologies, which were based on the application of small, on-site treatment units.

The overall EMCO objective was to assist in reducing environmental and health risks through the improvement of the receiving surface water quality. In addition, the project provided comprehensive data on the occurrence and removal potential of emerging contaminants in effluents in the participating European and western Balkan countries, so that limits of emissions could be set and avoidance strategies could be developed.

The methodological plan that was implemented consisted of:
1. compilation of existing and collection of missing data;
2. development of analytical tools;
3. evaluation of treatment alternatives, such as membrane bioreactors, reverse osmosis (RO) and nanofiltration (NF) and advanced sorbent materials that were assessed at various implementation scales.

Firstly, an inventory was undertaken, including the identification and overview of the current expertise and available state of the art in wastewater treatment in the Balkan region. Moreover, the legislative framework and the regulatory standards for wastewater treatment were identified. A series of innovative analytical methods were subsequently developed and assessed, and various different bioassays were selected.

Sampling campaigns were also performed in the target countries and confirmed the widespread occurrence of the emerging contaminants in municipal wastewaters of the western Balkan region. In addition, the relatively low removal efficiencies that were achieved by the operating treatment plants resulted in increased final pollution loads in comparison to other European countries and to the United States.

On the other hand, the various alternative proposals of the project were tested and assessed using a series of laboratory and pilot-scale plants which allowed for monitoring the removal efficiency of different contaminants. The techniques of RO and NF were also examined as a means of providing effective drinking water treatment.

Finally, the outcomes of the different evaluations and tests were integrated and compared, in order to produce finalised proposals regarding the techniques that optimally suited the different target countries. The outcomes of EMCO were disseminated to the interested parties throughout its timeframe, via a series of workshops and scientific publications.

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