Do you know who our researcher are?


Our previous newsletter introduced you to the ADVOCATE project, and the scientific research that was being undertaken. But who are our researchers?

We would like to introduce you to our Fellows, and hope you enjoy getting to know them!They are from: Canada, Colombia, Czech Republic, France, Germany,Ghana, Honduras, India, Poland, Spain, South Africa and Ukraine. And the disciplines represented are:Biochemistry, Biotechnology, Chemical Engineering, Environmental Engineering, Environmental Geoscience, Environmental Studies,Geology, Microbiology, and Water Management.

The multidisciplinary nature of our team ensures we will successfully develop the aims of the ADVOCATE project, to find innovative in situ remediation technologies by optimising resource investment in environmental restoration whilst considering technical, social and economic factors.

For learning more about the life and future of our fellows, click here !!Advocate Newsletter spring 2013

Brownfield land, why not a valuable resource

CL:AIRE’s goal is to support the beneficial use of Brownfield land and remediation technologies.

Brownfield land (defined as redevelopment of previously used land) can affect everyone, whether by the blight caused by living or working in close proximity to a Brownfield site, through involvement with the regulation of possible harmful effects from the land, or in the redevelopment and reuse of the land. However, brownfield land can be a valuable resource that is often not exploited to its full potential. Returning Brownfield land to beneficial use can contribute to sustainable development of our towns and cities by reducing pressure on Greenfield sites, whether for housing, commercial or amenity use. Concentrating development on Brownfield sites can help to make the best use of existing services such as transport and waste management.

As well, there is a close relationship between Brownfield land and contaminated land. Many Brownfield sites are former industrial sites and as such may have been contaminated by previous uses. The term ‘land contamination’ covers a wide range of situations where land is contaminated in some way. In a small number of these situations where certain criteria are met, a site might be determined ‘contaminated land’ which has a specific definition set out in legislation.

In this connection, Contaminated Land: Applications in Real Environments (CL:AIRE) has  as objective to raise standards and develop and promote good practice in the clean-up of land affected by contamination. It is the UK’s Brownfield and contaminated land information provider. It has a track record developing good practice in partnership with different stakeholders depending on the subject and it has developed a number of new solutions and practices looking at innovative ways to deal with contaminated soil and groundwater and reuse of soils in a sustainable way.

CL:AIRE’s goal is to support the beneficial use of Brownfield land and remediation technologies.

CL:AIRE’s work promotes the clear benefits of remediating and re-using land such as:

  • Bringing commercial, environmental and business value back to the land.
  • Enabling economic activity and inward investment.
  • Reducing contaminated soil taken to landfill.

CL:AIRE is committed to increasing the uptake and development of innovative and practical solutions to the remediation of land affected by contamination. Its expertise enables it to focus on the following core goals:

  • To provide a unique system of independent appraisals for technologies, monitoring and site investigation techniques to give confidence to site owners and developers.
  • To communicate scientifically credible and practical information on land affected by contamination and remediation to all interested parties.
  • To provide support to private and public bodies in accelerating the sustainable regeneration of Brownfield land and land affected by contamination.
  • To promote business opportunities for all its partners, by linking problem holders with appropriate solutions.

Happy World Environment Day 2013

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.

Figure 1

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.

Figure 2

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.



New system for giving us the keys to understand the complexity of the soil

Natalia and the group which is involved, will proceed with the installation of the Vadose Monitoring System (VMS) during the first week of June (3-7 June) in Belgium. As it advances, we will able to explain with more detail the system with videos and photos and obviously the results that will be of great interest.

New system for giving us the keys to understand the complexity of the soil.

New system for giving us the keys to understand the complexity of the soil

Soil is a finite and complex resource and understanding it is a challenge for us all. The soil is constantly changing and has a significant impact when this is studied in real cases because the soil is live and is not an inert system! As consequence, due to the complexity of real soil behaviour it is not possible to cover a detailed understanding of the characterization of pollutants at the site-scale. In view of that, Natalia Fernandez from University of Liège, in order to overcome such difficulties in soil and groundwater pollutant characterization, has set up a field experiment to investigate the fate and transport of pollutants from vadose zone and across groundwater at a former industrial site in Belgium. It is interesting underlining what a vadose zone is exactly, extending from the terrestrial surface to the top of the groundwater.

As a result of the legacy of the activities on site there is significant contamination by pollutants such as cyanide, CN− (cyanides are used widely and extensively in the manufacture of synthetic fabrics and plastics, metal mining operations, as pesticides and intermediates in agricultural chemical production) BTEX, Benzene, Toluene, Ethylbenzene and the Xylene isomers (are coming from industrial activities, traffic emission), PAHs, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (are mainly derived from anthropogenic activities related to pyrolysis and incomplete combustion of organic matter) and heavy metals in soil and groundwater that are giving rise an impact of indirect manner on our health.

The new system will attempt to give us the keys to obtain a detailed understanding of the characterization of pollutants at the site‐scale and their fate and transport in the soil‐groundwater. As Natalia says “The combined experiment will consist of a tracer test performed directly in the vadose zone via infiltration rings, located within an infiltration pond. Two inclined boreholes will be drilled below the infiltration pond, both containing a vadose monitoring system (VMS). Additionally, this system will comprise different elements, among which are the vadose sampling ports and flexible time domain reflectometry probes (FTDR). Sampling ports will be used for sampling pore water in the vadose zone, whereas the FTDR probes measure water content. As well, these measurements will be used for determining solute fluxes. Finally, additional boreholes will be installed in the unsaturated zone to conduct cross-hole geophysics with the aim of monitoring contaminants and tracers as they move into the saturated zone”.

Natalia and the group which is involved, will proceed with the installation of the Vadose Monitoring System (VMS) during the first week of June (3-7 June) in Belgium. As it advances, we will able to explain with more detail the system with videos and photos and obviously the results that will be of great interest.