Field: Damage-reducing technique, Soil characterization
Global Technical function: Managing
Technical Function Unit: Identifying, Modelling, Strategic planning
Geographic Area: Norway

SoilCAM

Contamination of soil and ground water from diffuse and point sources is a serious problem. The most frequent local soil contaminants are mineral oil and heavy metals and for ground water, mineral oil and chlorinated hydrocarbons. However, the development of certain damage-reducing techniques can provide solutions to these challenges. The SoilCAM (Soil Contamination: Advanced integrated characterization and time-lapse Monitoring) project is a four-year initiative, part of the research cluster “Soil Technology Research” funded by the European Commission. This particular project was funded by the Seventh Framework Programme, FP7, a grant funding programme, and will end during 2012.

The project aims to develop innovative combinations of techniques for optimal soil characterization. The project combines experimental studies and modelling, with the main objective to improve current methods for monitoring contaminant distribution and biodegradation in the subsurface. Dedicated to improving both site contamination assessment and the monitoring of bioremediation/geo-chemical processes. The 10 project partners from 8 different countries are collaborating to better understand the physical, chemical, and biological behaviour of the soil system and its contaminants at two test sites, Trecate in northern Italy and Oslo airport at Gardermoen, Norway. Both the chosen test sites display organic contaminants and are typical of situations that are difficult to avoid – i.e. the accidental or continuous release of degradable contaminants in permeable soils. The flow, transport, and biogeochemical interactions are considered for a soil system that is vulnerable to adverse contamination effects, i.e. a sandy soil with relatively shallow groundwater.

This is achieved through combining improved conventional soil monitoring techniques with state-of-the-art geophysical approaches.  Great attention has been paid to establishing robust relationships between the results of geochemical and geophysical monitoring. One of the goals is to monitor the natural attenuation effects due to the biological activities by means of new tools to get an integrated approach suitable for source-oriented remediation technologies.  The “new technologies” work package team developed new and innovative tools and instruments for monitoring and observing the soil’s electrical conductivity and polarizability. These techniques were designed for identifying and studying the presence of pollutants related to hydrocarbons, and included the new field
instrument Polares. Also geophysical software for processing geophysical data was developed. Further, strategies for incorporating bio-geochemical information and  geophysical data using  hydrogeological models are suggested.

The project is based on an interdisciplinary approach with scientists covering a wide area of research from microbiology to geophysics in order to find the best solutions. Bridging different disciplines might increase the understanding of the multifunctioning soil and groundwater systems and improve the basis for  improving monitoring. Also, there is strong communication with stakeholders and SMEs to ensure high relevance for society. All the knowledge from the project will be integrated into one metamodel which aims to help managers of contaminated sites chose the best approach for characterization and monitoring of their site (e.g. based on soil type, contamination source and properties and hydrologic setting). The model would suggest an appropriate “recipe” for how to achieve a good monitoring program and will thus be useful in
strategic planning processes. The metamodel is limited to managing permeable soils and to degradable contaminants (not heavy metals etc.). As it is not yet finalized, the technology readiness level for the model reaches a 3 on the TRL scale, according to the scope of the seventh framework programme which provides public grant partial funding for R&D.