Update during Covid-19 Situation
Just as partner states were starting to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic with lock downs and social distancing requirements, we were launching the roll-out of our volunteer sampling programme in Belgium. We were able to run one workshop for enthusiastic volunteers in Ghent in January 2020, but plans for additional training events have been postponed and volunteers have been asked to suspend their activities.
The current situation also means that our lab work, including completion of the biotests and analysis of samples for Watch List Chemicals, has been paused. Despite this, our partners are busy with preparing various reports and academic papers for publication. Likewise, we are reviewing how we are going to share the knowledge and tools that we have developed, for example creating webinars instead of hosting face-to-face training workshops.
At the outset of the project, we identified our core values as being:
Transparency and accountability
Awareness and respect for other partners
Connectivity and transnational cooperation
Informed curiosity and wider project perspective
Goal-oriented and focused on milestone
Positivity and fun
Trust and integrity
To this list we could now add three more values that are emerging during this challenging period: versatility, creative problem solving and resilience.
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.
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