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Immaculate conception

Pure, the EU-funded groundwater remediation research project, has just submitted its first annual report.

Mike Summersgill reports on the results of a busy year for researchers across Europe.

Publication of Pure's first annual report is a good opportunity to reflect on the field and experimental work done so far and future applications for contaminated land assessment and remediation.

Pure, the Protection of Groundwater Resources at Industrially-contaminated Sites project, was set up following a meeting of several groundwater experts in Milan in February last year. The project submitted its first annual report to the European Union Research Directorate, in Harrogate, Yorkshire, last month.

Final results of Pure's work will be published Europewide in 2003/04, as part of the Fifth Framework programme of the EU.

Pure is perhaps the largest new project under the programme, amounting to Ecu5M (£3M) of concentrated, practical research. The European Commission funds about 60% of the costs. Research bodies receive full funding while industry participants pay half of their own costs.

There are 13 participants: four industrial companies, seven research bodies and two service providers.UK remediation firm VHE Technology is one of the latter. The site owners ICI Paints, Akzo-Nobel, Ford and ENIChem have made parts of their sites available for study, reassessment and implementation trials. As well as VHE, Cranfield University provides a second UK 'presence' Pure consists of eight subprojects and a co-ordinating study. The projects divide naturally into two fields, assessment (three) and implementation (five). Each sub-project will involve two or three partners, and will ultimately focus on real applicability within the four owners' sites; one or two of those sites will be the primary focus for each subproject.

The intention is to have links between each element of Pure and between all four sites, resulting in a wider applicability to European groundwater pollution problems.There are also obvious synergies with other new EU soil remediation programmes such as Incore and Terranova.

The three assessment projects cover a wide range of field and computational analysis.The main 'driving'project is the Assessment, Benefits and Costs (ABC) tool being developed by TNO in the Netherlands, which is designed to aid costefficient analysis of remedial options.

ABC is a computer spreadsheet and a stratified, decision-tree tool that will prioritise and select probable outcomes using parameters such as site contamination/ geological levels, environmental constraints and the applicability of relevant technologies.

VHE Technology's role is to provide input to the cost element, by advising on the range of factors and economic constraints in each European country. This is essentially managed benchmarking, involving liaison with contractors in several markets.Much of this is done through Nicole, the Network for Industrially Contaminated Land in Europe, but some has had to be done first-hand in Vienna, Paris, Rome and Stockholm.

The other two projects in the assessment work involve a theoretical spatial assessment tool using 'fuzzy logic' being developed by the University of Yeditepe in Istanbul (assisted by Aquater consultants of Italy), and biotoxicity analysis work by Cranfield University.

Researchers in the Bedfordshire campus are intending to produce a piece of site equipment that can be used for rapid groundwater assessment, combining the latest supercritical fluid extraction technology. Next year this is expected to be tested in the field, on both organics and metals, at one of the participant's sites in Italy and/or Germany.

The five implementation projects range from 'bluesky' research to transfer of bench-scale technologies into field trials.The researchers come from Swiss, German, Dutch and Italian universities, but a key element of Pure is a technical overview by VHE and Aquater of the potential and cost of these techniques at full-scale, along with an assessment of their practicality (and legislative compliance) throughout the EU.

Subjects being reviewed and tested in the laboratories include:

electro-bioremediation steam injection and alcohol flooding

methane-butane co-metabolism of solvents

iron-reducing reactivity/stimulation of pollutants

anaerobic/aerobic bio-degradation of chloro-organic compounds.

VHE Technology has a particular involvement with the work of the Institute of Civil Engineering at the University of Stuttgart, looking at thermally-stimulated soil vapour extraction (TSVE) and co-solvent flushing (CSF) with alcohol on unsaturated and saturated zones respectively.

Vegas (Versuchseinrichtung zur Grundwasser und AltlastenSanierung) is the research facility for subsurface remediation at the Hydraulic Research Institute at Stuttgart. Over the past two decades it has expanded to include a 'dirty' water/soils section with the ability to recirculate and treat all its discharges and effluent.

By undertaking a series of planned 1D (column), 2D (flume) and 3D (tank) experiments, the TSVE and CSF processes are being modelled at Vegas on idealised and then on actual contaminated soil samples. The results to date are very promising, and the next stage is to simulate field conditions using both techniques in a large tank at the facility, involving some 30t of site soil.

The final step is expected to be a pilot-scale field experiment at one of the German partners' sites, where VHE's role is to develop the engineering requirements.

Already, and separately from the Pure project, the TSVE process has been translated to the field on a nearby research site in Muhlacker and is now being taken forward commercially by a German contractor after an application at Plauen, near Leipzig.

This kind of technology development, into a costeffective and practical/commercial method for either assessment or remediation, is the primary aim of Pure.

Annual results of the Pure project are presented at an open seminar each year with other EU Fifth Framework projects. This year's meeting was hosted by Leeds University civil engineering department in Harrogate on 22 May.A report on the workshop will be available later in the year, in book and electronic form.

Mike Summersgill is general manager of specialist remediation company VHE Technology.

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