CORDIS - EU research results

Water and Soil Clean-up from Mixed Contaminants

Final Report Summary - WASCLEAN (Water and Soil Clean-up from Mixed Contaminants)

Soil and water contamination caused by human activity is a major threat to the environment, human health and quality of life. There are many sources of land pollution, which include industrial, agricultural and domestic activities. Potentially the most dangerous pollutants are xenobiotics (e.g. human-made chemicals). Toxic metals/metalloids (Cd, Cu, Pb, Zn, Hg, Se, As, Cr) and emerging organic contaminants (polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), persistent organic pollutants (POPs), petroleum hydrocarbons, synthetic dyes, pesticides and herbicides) are the most abundant and widespread contaminants worldwide. Often they are found together in the same contaminated site and this creates a big problem because the toxic metals interfere with the degradation of organics.
The aim of this project was to stimulate inter-sectoral collaboration to develop and scale-up a comprehensive technology for the remediation of contaminated land and water treatment from representative toxic metals, POPs and synthetic dyes. The project brought together a multidisciplinary consortium of specialists from EU member states (Slovakia: Institute of Geotechnics SAS (UGT SAV) & Environcentrum s.r.o. (ENV); Greece: Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTH) & Hermes S.A.; UK: University of Brighton (UoB) & MAST Carbon Int. Ltd. (MCI)) and a major ICPC partner (Kazakhstan: Nazarbayev University (NU) & EKODOR LCC.), with complementary expertise in different areas of: contaminated land management, environmental (geo)chemistry, nanotechnology, (geo)microbiology, environmental engineering, material research and physical, analytical, and surface chemistry.

Results and Impact
The work programme of the WaSClean project was divided into seven work packages.
Novel materials were developed by incorporating Fe based nanoparticles on activated carbon (AC) matrices, in such a way that the AC retained their ability to remove organics and metals, while the incorporated Fe NPs efficiently remove metalloids such as arsenic, chromium, etc. The Fe NPs were introduced by two different techniques: the nano-electrospray technique (NU) and the solution precipitation on AC matrix (MCI, UGT SAV). Their adsorption properties towards organics (synthetic dyes) and toxic metals (Cd, Cu, As) were studied at UoB, AUTH and UGT SAV. The novel adsorbents were characterized by advanced analysis techniques.
Advanced bioreactor was developed by UGT SAV. The biodegradation of polyaromatic hydrocarbons found in contaminated soils was tested and optimized in collaboration with ENV. A lab scale electrochemical oxidation reactor was constructed by AUTH for degradation of synthetic reactive dyes. Various model solutions were studied and degraded successfully with complete decoloration and significant carbon mineralization. COD and TOC values were decreased by more than 75%. High concentrations of the model solutions were treated successfuly. Various electrode materials were tested and the process parameters (solution pH, current intensity, dose of chemicals, electrode materials and treatment time) were optimized for successful degradation of mixtures of synthetic dyes of industrial grade. The results were applied successfully to real contaminated wastewater of HERMES company. Ekodor together with UoB, AUTH and UGT SAV explored the possible use of metallurgical wastes in construction industry in Kazakhstan and thus eliminate the impact on the environment in Karaganda industrial region in Kazakhstan. Risk assessment of new materials and technologies was carried out jointly by all Partners through-out the project. The toxicity of nanoparticles and Fe-composites were studied by haemocyte uptake of iron oxide NPs in mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis (AUTH & UGT SAV). Additionally, the health and environmental risk of the nanocomposites and nanoparticles intended for water clean-up was assessed by UoB.
Removal and degradation techniques such as adsorption, electrooxidation, biodegradation were optimized by consortium. Finally, the integrated remediation technology was designed by UGT SAV and AUTH and scaled up together with ENV at their decontamination area.
WaSClean produced suitable remediation technology for the treatment of industrial waste waters and liquid effluents (e.g. from contaminated soils, landfill leachates etc.). Moving forward, producing new water remediation technologies will benefit to all European citizens, economy, agriculture and industry and will place Europe in a leading position in the area of novel remediation devices and technologies.
WaSClean outputs have been developed as platform technologies, so that different prototypes can be designed to meet the needs of different client groups. The various composite devices developed under WaSClean employ different surface chemistries tailor made for different contaminant types and will offer a range of configurations suited to specific industry requirements. The initial market assessment were performed by UoB.
Three PhD Theses related to WaSClean project were successfully defended and two are still ongoing.
Four WaSClean workshops were held to help to target the work programme, and disseminate project data, in Kosice, Slovakia, Thessaloniki, Greece and Astana, Kazakshtan, attended by a high number external delegates. Autumn School on Advanced Adsorption and Oxidation Techniques for the Removal of Xenobiotics was hosted by AUTH in Thessaloniki, Greece, bringing together 125 participants from 7 countries.
A strategic long term partnership has been established among the partners with complementary skills. A high quality in house training has been provided to young as well as experienced researchers. Marie Curie Fellows acquired new and complementary skills through the well-organized secondments with immediate and long-lasting benefits for each partner. Cultural and business knowledge was shared between West-, East-, South-Europe and Central Asia, and it is possible that European companies with the help of the two Kazakh members will explore new markets in Asia.