Summary of Main Achievements
The Sullied Sediments project focussed on the sediments from inland waterways: their characterisation in terms of chemicals present as well as any associated toxicities or wider impacts; a spore-based technology intervention to attempt to remove selected chemicals at waste water treatment plants (WWTP); and a citizen engagement initiative and intervention to prevent further chemicals from entering these waterways by influencing citizen's behaviour. The combined partnership continued to contribute to each of the work packages and their activities throughout the life of the project.
In the background to our activities during the final period of the project, there were lockdowns and significant limitations imposed due to the outbreak of Covid-19. The activities comprising Work Package 3 (WP3), 'Better Characterisation', aimed to give sediment managers and other stakeholders informational tools to better assess sediments in terms of chemical loadings and potential toxicity, which determine how they are disposed following any dredging activities. The main activities resulted in a new database of various chemical and biological/toxicological data, including the new watch list chemical information.
Also within the final project period, the analytical chemistry methods developed earlier were applied to activities within Work Package 4 (WP4) (see below), which includes the "bioavailability" (of estrogens attached to SpECs) experiments. These results give preliminary indications of the potential of SpECs to 'tie up' estrogenic compounds in waste water treatment plant effluent and render it less toxic. With input from all partners, two reports have been produced that have been aimed for different audiences: one in journal article format for wide dissemination and a second for in a POSTNote style report intended policy maker/politician audiences.
The main activity in WP4, 'Better Treatment', was development of plant spore-based product for the adsorption of Watch List Chemicals (triclosan, diclofenac, oestradiol) from aqueous solution, and then completion of analysis of data from the experiments involving adsorption of E2 to SpECs in the presence of sludge samples taken from a waste water treatment works (WWTW) (Northumbrian Water - 'Real World trial'). The preliminary dataset will aid water companies in their decision-making processes regarding the further developments required to use of SpECs as an alternative means to polish sewage water effluents. The results from the overlapping 'bioavailability' tasks are reported under WP3. Another aspect of WP4 was undertaken by OVAM. Here, OVAM collected of expertise on end of waste framework, made an inventory of state of the art of remediation techniques and treatment of contaminated sediment (in situ and ex situ) as a preparation for the end of waste framework.
With respect to Work Package 5 (WP5), 'Better Prevention', a volunteer sampling programme called RiverDip was developed, including a dipstick that measures phosphate levels in samples and an app that enables volunteers to share their results. From March 2019, volunteers were initially trained in person in the UK. However, due to coronavirus, this approach was replaced by remote training via an interactive website (https://riverdip.com/). This website provides volunteers with all the information they need to take part in the sampling programme while supporitng volunteer recruitment and capturing expressions of interest for future activity.
The deployment of the RiverDip website greatly enhanced our efforts to reach volunteers across the North Sea Region and was complemented by a virtual workshop in Belgium in October to engage with volunteers there who completed over 100 tests in the last three months of the project.
Many of the inland waterways in the European Union are under threat due to the introduction of Watch List chemicals that are not currently regulated under the European Water Framework Directive. These chemicals include the so-called “gender benders” such as estradiol and the contraceptive pill, and other pharmaceutical drugs such as triclosan and diclofenac, which have been shown to be harmful to wildlife. These chemicals are introduced to our waterways as a result of our day-to-day activities and through industry. Regardless of the source, they accumulate in the sediments in our rivers and canals.
Water regulators and managing authorities do not always know the levels, the locations or the impacts of these pollutants. Nor do they have the tools to assess sediments confidently and make decisions with regard to managing them. An interdisciplinary partnership of scientific experts, regulators and water managers led by the University of Hull (UK) will develop and test new tools to better assess, treat and prevent contamination from these chemicals. This work will be carried out at nine sites, all of which have a history of sediment problems, in the North Sea Region’s Elbe, Humber and Scheldt river catchments.
The aim of the ‘Sullied Sediments’ project is therefore to enable regulators and water managers to make better decisions with regard to sediment management, removal and disposal, thereby reducing economic costs and the impact of these pollutants on the environment.
The partnership will also endeavour to reduce the amount of chemicals entering the water system by raising awareness about what we, as consumers, are releasing into the environment through the use of common drugs and household products. Part of this includes the involvement of volunteers in a sediment sampling initiative across the region, which will inform and empower these citizens as water stewards and champions.
‘Sullied Sediments’ has been has been co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Interreg VB North Sea Region Programme with a grant of 2.043.413 € with equivalent match funding from the partners involved. The project partnership includes public, private and third sector organisations based in the United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.
Latest Project News
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After an eight month hiatus due to Covid-19, we are thrilled to announce the continuation of our volunteer training workshops as part of our RiverDip …Read more