Soil contamination is a serious problem that is easy to create, but exceedingly difficult to remedy. Whether it’s due to the closing of an industrial facility or careless business decisions, once the soil is polluted, there are dire consequences for the surrounding area.
These consequences are felt in several different areas, reaching from the future use of the land, to irreparable damage to the ecosystem, and the high costs associated with the clean-up process.
Decontaminating soil may sound like a simple concept, but in reality it is an intricate and expensive ordeal that can tax the financial abilities of any enterprise or administration.
The problem that contaminated soil presents is the starting point for a four year project called Life I+DARTS that has been co-financed by the European financial instrument for nature conservation and environmental protection.
The overall goal of the study is directed at developing a protocol that would simplify the recovery of soils contaminated with arsenic and other heavy metals that can be found in mining and industrial sites through the application of innovative and sustainable remediation technologies.
The project was launched in 2012 and will conclude in 2016. The project is taking place in the principality of Asturias, Spain. The closing of several mining and industrial facilities have left the ground in this area polluted with arsenic and various other heavy metals.
The presence of arsenic and these heavy metals complicates the remediation process because arsenic has such a complex geochemical behavior.
The team on the ground in Asturias is working diligently to apply innovative, yet sustainable solutions to decontaminate the soil.
In their two years, the project team has unearthed some interesting results.
The team found that certain plants, such as the birch, willow, yellowhead, and leguminous plants can accumulate heavy metals and arsenic.
These interesting results could lead to future breakthroughs in better methods of decontaminating soil.
Currently, there are three common strategies that are used for soil remediation purposes. The first strategy involves excavation and transporting the pollutants to be disposed in landfills. This is one of the most expensive options because the cost of removing the excavated soil is prohibitive.
The second process focuses on containment, but that is also costly and not as effective as one might wish.
The last method is to remove the contaminants through physic-chemical or biological technologies.
This final method is the only method LIFE I+DARTS considers because the first two options are not only more expensive, but ultimately, they are less sustainable options as well.
According to an article by Nanowerk:
“The team is engaged in five basic actions over the course of the four-year project: biogeochemical site characterisation, and human health 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.”
After two years of hard work and reaching the halfway point, the research is promising.
Unfortunately, the problem with pollution isn’t going away. There are stories everyday about new soil remediation projects beginning.
It is with that knowledge that the LIFE I+DARTS team hopes the next two years will yield even more insight on how to handle a delicate, expensive issue.