The Eurecat technology centre is taking part in the European Promisces project which has a €12 million budget and seeks to develop innovative solutions to remove pollutants from the environment with a view to shifting towards a zero-pollution circular economy.

Funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme and coming under the European Green Deal, Promisces is designed to understand the sources, pathways and destinations of pollutants, consisting of perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and other chemical compounds mainly released by industry, which are easily spread in the environment and highly persistent.

The project will develop technologies to remove these pollutants which can be harmful to human health and the environment from soils, sediments and wastewater, surface and groundwater.

Promisces is to pursue this strategy by looking at seven representative case studies in chemical pollution challenges in a number of European regions including sites in Spain, France, Italy, Bulgaria, Germany and the Danube river basin between Vienna and Budapest.

Eurecat is taking part in the project through its Water, Air and Soil Unit and Applied Artificial Intelligence Unit which are “leading two of the project’s case studies in Catalonia and coordinating some R&D-related tasks,” says Carme Bosch, head of Eurecat’s Soil and Groundwater strand.

One of these case studies is to be conducted at the Montornès del Vallès Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) (Barcelona) which is run by the Besòs Tordera Consortium, one of the project partners. Given the high industrial content of the water treated at this WWTP, a pilot water reclamation plant is to be set up to remove complex industrial pollutants. The effluent water will be processed using advanced treatments and the facilities at the Urban River Lab (URL), the WWTP’s open-air laboratory, to make it suitable for reuse in areas such as irrigation.

The other case study will consist of an intervention and survey of a site with an impaired aquifer. Here the environmental consultancy firm Esolve will put in place various experimental remediation technologies and control and monitor their impact with Eurecat’s support. The Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research (IDAEA-CSIC) will analyse the pollutants in both cases.

“Promisces will provide concepts for zero-pollution circularity applied to water, soil and sediment to the public and private sectors,” says Dr Philippe Negrel, coordinator of Promisces and deputy director of the Water, Environment, Development and Process Analysis Division at BRGM, the French Geological Survey.

Twenty-seven partners from nine European countries make up the project’s interdisciplinary consortium including academic institutions, private companies, research centres and water utilities. They will address technological challenges and make recommendations for rolling out relevant EU strategies and policy guidelines.

“Promisces will develop, test and demonstrate, on the ground and under real world conditions, key technologies and innovations to control, prevent and remediate persistent, mobile and potentially toxic industrial pollutants in the soil-sediment-water system,” explains Dr Julie Lions, deputy coordinator of Promisces and groundwater quality expert at BRGM, the French Geological Survey.

The innovations developed in Promisces are expected to make a significant contribution to achieving the European Green Deal targets for a safer and more sustainable environment.