2013 marks the 40th Anniversary of World Environment Day, every year on June 5th for forty years, people across the planet celebrate the United Nations World Environment Day. It is a day for action. Hundreds of thousands of activities take place in virtually every country in the world to improve the environment now and for the future. Not to be outdone, the ADVOCATE project wishes to help in this day to promote the importance of developing innovative in situ remediation concepts for the sustainable management of contaminated land and groundwater for improving the Environment for us and our future.
Over the past several decades, increasing human population, economic development, and emergence of global markets, have resulted in immense pressures on natural resources, and these pressures are expected to intensify further over the next few decades. Throughout this project, we are seeking to address a solution to the four critical technical and socio-economic issues facing the sustainable use and development of groundwater resources in Europe (i) existing and future requirements to protect, improve and increase the quality and quantity of groundwater resources; (ii) cost-effective and sustainable re mediation strategies for land and groundwater contamination; (iii) huge legacy of contaminated sites impacting groundwater across Europe which compromises the socio-economic well being and sustainable development of Member States, and (iv) the chronic shortage of skilled professionals in this area to deal with such problems.
Petra Hedbavna, from the University of Sheffield and fellow of the ADVOCATE project, is using bacterial batteries to generate electricity from groundwater pollution. Basically, the bacteria can remove toxic compounds from aqueous solutions and generating electricity at the same time that the pollutants are being removed. In this connection, Petra explains that groundwater can be contaminated by organic compounds which compromise the water quality (Figure 1). As well, it is known that bacteria present in groundwater are able to biodegrade this pollution but they require oxygen for respiration, which can be supplied with the traditional technology, pumping oxygen, against, it is consumed electricity.
However, a new technology is being carried out where the electricity is produced while contamination is biodegraded by means of what is called – microbial fuel cells. This microbial fuel cell technology used for biodegradation enhancement is potentially highly sustainable because electricity is not consumed but produced. Microbial fuel cells used for enhanced biodegradation are still in development, only tested under laboratory conditions (Figure 2). The amount of electricity produced by this technology is not significant and it is not going to solve the world energy crisis. The main advantages are increasing the biodegradation rate of contamination and electricity savings.
It is also important to note that not only scientists developing new technologies for electricity production that can make a difference to the environment. Saving energy at work and at home on daily basis can decrease the world electricity consumption significantly. The University of Sheffield promotes electricity saving by a programme called Energy Matters. Money saved on electricity bills is used for student scholarships (you can find more information on the university webpage Energy_Matters).
Another possibility for removing the pollutants from groundwater is using permeable reactive multi-barrier (PRmB) systems as a sustainable in situ technology for the remediation of groundwater contaminated with mixed organic/inorganic contaminants. Franklin Obiri-Nyarko, from Hydrogeotechnika Ltd in Poland and fellow of the ADVOCATE project, is investigating new and potentially suitable reactive materials for treating these contaminants, as well as evaluating and enhancing the long-term performance of the PRmB system. The focus of his experiments are on the assessment of the removal efficiencies of these materials, understanding the contaminant removal processes, and deducing the key barrier parameters to develop the pilot-scale PRmB system. The performance of the pilot installation coupled with modelling studies will be used to assess the longevity of the system. The results will play a major role in improving the generic understanding and in advancing knowledge of both the scientific and technical aspects of this technology.
This vision of our project is just a small part upon which the entire project is consisted. 14 fellows are involved coming from 20 academic and industry partners throughout five different countries providing to the project a close integration of various scientific, technical, environmental and socio-economic aspect.
We, also, won’t fail on this occasion to remind you, this year’s theme focuses on food waste and food loss. Think.Eat.Save. Reduce Your Foodprint is the new campaign of UNEP and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN. It draws attention both to the issue and the absurdity that high volumes of perfectly edible produce are never making it from the farm to the fork.
Indeed, at least one third of everything we grow on this planet is lost between the field and the consumer. It is an ethical, economic and environmental issue given the enormous waste of energy, water, fertilizers and other inputs as a result of food that is produced but never eaten. Each one of us can do something about this, from this post we invite people across the world to make an effort to both raise awareness and to take practical actions whether in your home, when you are buying in the supermarket or well anywhere. Because by reducing food waste, we can save money, minimize environmental impacts and make food production more sustainable and resilient. Most importantly, we can move towards a world where everyone has enough to eat.
HAPPY WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY ’13