EU-project applies green technologies to decontaminate soil

Jun 16, 2014
EU-project applies green technologies to decontaminate soil

Soil pollution causes severe environmental and economic impacts, as well as risks for the human health and ecosystems. The closure of mining and industrial facilities in many sites across Europe has revealed large amounts of contaminated land with uncertain future uses. Decontaminating and recovering such soil is a long, complex and expensive process, which places a large burden on enterprises or public administrations.

Land in Asturias, Spain, for example, is shown to be contaminated with Arsenic (usually accompanied by heavy metals) which is complicated to remove. The LIFE I+DARTS project, co-financed by LIFE+, aims to address this problem by developing a protocol to enable the recovery of soils contaminated with Arsenic and heavy metals in former mining and industrial sites.

The team is doing this by applying innovative and sustainable remediation technologies to decontaminate the soil.

The project, which runs until August 2016, is already revealing pertinent results. The LIFE I+DARTS team has found that plants such as the birch, the willow or the yellowhead and leguminous plants such as the melilotus alba can accumulate and Arsenic.

Project experts have also detected the presence of certain endophyte bacteria that resist high concentrations of Arsenic and the existence of fungi that favour the processes of decontamination. These advances open the door to using these biological techniques for soils that have been catalogued as contaminated for more than a decade.

The three basic strategies for soil remediation are excavation and disposal in landfills, containment, and removal of the contaminants through physic-chemical or biological technologies. LIFE I+DARTS only considers the last possibility because the others are more expensive and less sustainable options.

The team is engaged in five basic actions over the course of the four-year project: biogeochemical site characterisation, and risk assessment; soil remediation at pilot scale and a comparison between green remediation technologies and physic-chemical technologies; the development of the protocol as a tool for the management of Arsenic-polluted soils and the dissemination of information on the project activities and results.

Project coordinator, Professor José Luis Rodríguez Gallego, has been leading the team since 2012. They are testing their results in three different contaminated sites of Asturias: El Terronal (Mieres), the site of the old factory of Nitrastur (Langreo) and the old mercury mine of Olicio (Cangas de Onís). These sites all have remains of Arsenic in their sub-soil - there is also mercury in two of them and an anomalous concentration of lead in one.

Professor Rodríguez Gallego notes, 'In truth, we have found very heterogeneous sites and this has proved to be a difficulty. There are very different terrain compositions over a short distance, and this complicates our actions, but we have also been surprised by the great capacity of the environment to regenerate.'

Explore further: New low-cost, nondestructive technology cuts risk from mercury hot spots

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New approach for risk screening of contaminated land

Jun 24, 2013

Following a century of industrialisation, contaminated sites lie abandoned or underutilized all over the world. Now there is a rapid new approach for risk screening of each site, according to studies from ...

Restoring contaminated soil

Feb 06, 2013

Land contaminated with substances in or under the land can be potentially hazardous to health or the environment. However, in many cases there is minimal risk from living or working on contaminated ground ...

Fungi clean oil-polluted soil

May 21, 2014

Fungi can be harnessed to clean polluted soil which cannot be cleaned using traditional composting. This was the finding of Erica Winquist, M.Sc. (Tech.), in her dissertation for Aalto University.

Recommended for you

Dead floppy drive: Kenya recycles global e-waste

Aug 22, 2014

In an industrial area outside Kenya's capital city, workers in hard hats and white masks take shiny new power drills to computer parts. This assembly line is not assembling, though. It is dismantling some ...

New paper calls for more carbon capture and storage research

Aug 22, 2014

Federal efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions must involve increased investment in research and development of carbon capture and storage technologies, according to a new paper published by the University of Wyoming's ...

Coal gas boom in China holds climate change risks

Aug 22, 2014

Deep in the hilly grasslands of remote Inner Mongolia, twin smoke stacks rise more than 200 feet into the sky, their steam and sulfur billowing over herds of sheep and cattle. Both day and night, the rumble ...

User comments : 0