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Development of improved detection systems for monitoring of toxic heavy metals in contaminated groundwaters and soils

Objective

Problems to be solved
Toxic Heavy Metals (THM) are well known pollutants from both natural or anthropogenic sources. Their deposits in solid or liquid solutions have several ways to spread out (including both physical and chemical transformations) and thus to get into the trofic chain. The current "in site" THM detection systems are generally limited to spectrophotometer chemical test kits.
These offer the convenience of field analysis but have several important limitations:
· Speciation is not achieved, only total content is determined
· Chemical and physical interferences to measured signal can be dramatic
· Still require a high degree of user competence. Thus, data are poor to determine trends in pollution and to contribute to a proper risk assessment. A solution to this problem will directly contribute to the EU policy for environmental information and protection of ground waters and soils (EU council inter-institutional dossier 97/0067 (SYN)
Scientific objectives and approach
The present project is focused to throw light into this problem by identifying the contamination trends of these pollutants (including chemical speciation and metal mobility factors) as well as to determine the efficiency of the remediation processes that are applied to such a contaminated sites. To accomplish for these objectives, the research activities have been planned as follows. The project will develop and validate novel selective and robust sensing devices, including chemical sensors and biosensors and biomimetic systems for on-line operation and real time measurements of THM (Toxic Heavy Metals) present in contaminated soils, groundwater and surface waters.
This general contribution will be accomplished by the specific investigations:
· Elaboration and validation of electrochemical biosensors/immunosensors and screen-printed electrodes for analysis of THM in contaminated soil, surface waters and groundwaters
· Determination of THM chemical speciation and its trends of contamination.
· Designing and construction of a portable detection system for THM determination· Integration of the data generated by the new devices into a decision taking scheme based on GIS (Geographical Information System) to provide a more accurate and inexpensive risk assessment.
Expected impacts
The developed detection systems will be validated in laboratory and field trails and then actively used for the monitoring of pollution levels in contaminated European sites and landfills and for controlling the efficiency of remediation activities. The GIS technology will enable an efficient use of the sensing systems. It will take benefit of the new type of data, for producing a more accurate and flexible evaluation of risks, targeted to the case of large sites contaminated with heavy metals. The project is also addressed to European regulation by determining monitoring procedures that will asses decisions for cleaning up toxic heavy metals contaminated site. Moreover, the developed procedures will allow for the obtaining of data about the state of groundwater and soils (in terms of metal content) that can be included in already existing databases such as those managed by the European Environmental Agency. The problems related to industrial activities (i.e. metal finishing industry, production of fertilisers, urban sludge treatment, mining activity and consequences of mining tailing spills) are currently under strong consideration due not only to limitations on cost effective and technological competent processes but also to the lack of appropriate decision making procedures. The final goal is to introduce the developed monitoring systems on markets, in which present industrial products have not penetrated because they are too expensive and/or require excessive maintenance or calibration or because their size is simply too large.

Toxic Heavy Metals (THM) are well known pollutants from both natural or antropogenic sources. Their deposits in solid or liquid solutions have several ways to spread out (including both physical and chemical transformations) and thus to get into the trofic chain. The current "in situ" THM detection systems are generally limited to spectrophotometric chemical test kits. These offer the convenience of field analysis but have several important limitations:

Speciation is not achieved, only total content is determined

Chemical and physical interferences to measured signal can be dramatic

Still require a high degree of user competence

Thus, data are poor to determine trends in pollution and to contribute to a proper risk assessment. A solution to this problem will directly contribute to the EU policy for environmental information and protection of ground waters and soils (EU council inter-institutional dossier 97/0067 (SYN))

Expected impacts
The developed detection systems will be validated in laboratory and field trails and then actively used for the monitoring of pollution levels in contaminated European sites and landfills and for controlling the efficiency of remediation activities. The GIS technology will enable an efficient use of the sensing systems. It will take benefit of the new type of data, for producing a more accurate and flexible evaluation of risks, targeted to the case of large sites contaminated with heavy metals. The project is also addressed to European regulation by determining monitoring procedures that will asses decisions for cleaning up toxic heavy metals contaminated site. Moreover, the developed procedures will allow for the obtainment of data about the state of ground waters and soils (in terms of metal content) that can be included in already existing databases such as those managed by the European Environmental Agency.

The problems related to industrial activities (i.e. metal finishing industry, production of fertilisers, urban sludge treatment, mining activity and consequences of mining tailing spills) are currently under strong consideration due not only to limitations on cost effective and technological competent processes but also to the lack of appropriate decision making procedures. The final goal is to introduce the developed monitoring systems on markets, in which present industrial products have not penetrated because they are too expensive and/or require excessive maintenance or calibration or because their size is simply too large.

Funding Scheme

CSC - Cost-sharing contracts

Coordinator

AUTONOMOUS UNIVERSITY OF BARCELONA
Address
Campus Universitario, Edificio C
08193 Bellaterra
Spain

Participants (3)

CRANFIELD UNIVERSITY
United Kingdom
Address
Cranfield
MK43 0AL Cranfield,bedford
INSTITUT DE RECHERCHES HYDROLOGIQUES
France
Address
Rue Gabriel Péri 11 Bis
54515 Vandoeuvre-les-nancy
TPA TECNICAS DE PROTECCION AMBIENTAL S.A.
Spain
Address
C/ Federico Salmon 13
28016 Madrid