DSADS: 'Den Spurenstoffen auf der Spur' (On the Tracks of Trace Substances) in Dülmen
We all leave tracks on our blue planet. Some of them are enormous and can be seen from far away, while others are tiny and barely visible to the naked eye. Some of these tracks disappear after just a short time, and others stay for a long time or forever. And the legacies of our lives and our living conditions can also be found in one of our most valuable resources, our water.
In the project "On the Tracks of Trace Substances in Dülmen", we also go in search of special residues in our wastewater, tiny but traceable. We are searching for pharmaceutical contaminants, which pass through the wastewater into our waterways, and from there further into the water cycle. We are asking questions about the active substances, their residues, the way in which they are used, and what we can do about their remnants. We are recording and analysing the consumption rates, for which we require the support of many partners in the healthcare sector, and particularly from the residents of Dülmen. Finally, we are identifying ways to avoid and reduce at the source the quantities that get from our wastewater into our waterways.
Further information on the project can be found on the website www.dsads.de.
Future Cities: Urban networks are facing up to climate change
Climate change affects not only the hurricane regions of the USA and the Pacific atolls threatened by flooding. Also here in Northern Europe, the consequences of rising average temperatures can clearly be felt. Typical effects include higher precipitation in winter and hotter, dry summers. These changes mean new challenges for the water management sector, particularly in those cities especially prone to extreme weather situations. Under the leadership of the LIPPEVERBAND, eight partners from five EU countries have therefore pooled their resources in the Future Cities project. By the start of 2013, new concepts had been developed for coping with climate change. The budget of the project is eleven million euros, half of which was provided by the partners, and half by the European Regional Development Fund.
The project concentrates on water management and urban development measures in densely populated regions, because the adaptation measures are particularly cost-intensive here, and require innovative solutions. Through the combination of the key elements of water, vegetation and energy, the aim is to develop the most efficient strategies possible for coping with climate change. The first step is the development of a common assessment scheme for the climate-friendly development of an urban region (Climate Assessment). On this basis, subsequent stages will develop measures for specific adaptation to climate change, and implement these in model pilot projects. These three fields of activity are accompanied by a fourth task block, which covers increasing public awareness of climate issues by means of an active communication policy.
An important approach for coping with climate challenges is the combination of water systems with green infrastructure. In its pilot projects, for example, the LIPPEVERBAND relies on the natural infiltration of stormwater, in order to reduce the burden on sewer systems. In parallel, the conversion of the Seseke is creating flood retention areas structured as flood plains, which can collect large volumes of stormwater in the event of floods. As the second German project partner, the EMSCHERGENOSSENSCHAFT is performing the climate-friendly restructuring of an existing industrial area, in cooperation with the administration of the City of Bottrop. Alongside comprehensive energy-saving measures, stormwater infiltration also plays a decisive role here.
After the first technical conference, held in 2009 at Rouen in France, an interim evaluation of the Emscher catchment area was drawn up in 2010 for the Capital of Culture year. In 2013, the comprehensive results were collected in the southern English city of Hastings, and the jointly developed Climate Assessment was published. How sensitive are densely populated regions to climate extremes such as heat, flooding and storms? The newly developed assessment methodology makes it possible to systematically determine how well adapted an urban region is to climate change.
It is already clear now that all of the measures implemented make sense on their own terms, because they were explicitly set up as "no regret projects". Quite apart from climate changes that cannot yet be accurately predicted, they have already shown some positive effects.
noPills: Reducing contamination of the water cycle with pharmaceuticals
It is increasingly common for pharmaceutical contaminants to be found in bodies of surface water and drinking water. Certain substances from e.g. hormone preparations or painkillers can harm aquatic organisms. The tasks of the EMSCHERGENOSSENSCHAFT and LIPPEVERBAND as regards water quality, water protection, and implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive etc. require precise analysis of what consequences this issue can have for our waterways. The INTERREG project PILLS examined the extent to which renovation of the wastewater treatment systems at source points could significantly contribute to reducing water pollution with pharmaceutical contaminants. One result of this project is that only around 20 percent of pharmaceutical emissions can be measured at source points, e.g. hospitals, depending on local circumstances. The EU project 'noPILLS in waters' was then dedicated to the remaining 80 percent of emissions from private households. It investigated how consumer behaviour (in test regions) can be influenced, and whether a reduced renovation of wastewater treatment plants with correspondingly less "high tech" seems feasible.
Experts from Germany, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, the United Kingdom, and France combined their efforts for three years to tackle this task. As lead partner, the EMSCHERGENOSSENSCHAFT handled the management of the noPILLS project, which had a budget of 9.3 million euros. The European Union funded 43 percent of the project as part of the INTERREG IV B programme. The remaining costs were covered by the partners from their own funds; the activities of the LIPPEVERBAND additionally supported by national cofinancing from the Ministry of Climate Protection, Environment, Agriculture, Nature Conservation and Consumer Protection of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia. The project ran from 1 June 2012 until 30 September 2015. Beyond that, most of the partners are continuing to run their own supplementary projects on the subject, often financed using their own resources.
In Europe, there are currently around 3000 pharmaceutically active substances licensed and – depending on their use – these are excreted from the body to a greater or lesser extent (up to 70 percent). In January 2012, the EU published the new draft for the appendix to the Water Framework Directive (WFD). After discussion by the European Parliament, on 2 July 2013 three pharmaceuticals were added to the "monitoring list" of newly occurring pollutants, which may one day be added to the list of priority substances. These new regulations recognised the risks that could result from these widespread pharmaceuticals (the hormone products 17-alpha-ethinylestradiol and 17-beta-estradiol, and the painkiller diclofenac), and called on the European Commission to develop a strategic approach for the risks posed by pharmaceuticals to aquatic environments.
Treatment at source points can record concentrated emissions e.g. at hospitals. In relation to the consumption of private households, however, different approaches are required in order to achieve an overall reduction of micro-pollutants in the water cycle. However, comprehensive further technologies at (municipal) wastewater treatment plants would generate enormous costs for water users.
noPILLS is dedicated to the question of whether and to what extent other strategies could be successful taking a source-end approach – i.e. where the residues become wastewater – instead of an end-of-the-pipe approach. The project relates not only to the substances in the appendix of the WFD, but also to a reduction of pharmaceutical trace substances all together. Building on the previous PILLS project, the noPILLS project is now widening its attention to pharmaceutical contaminants in wastewater overall, and the transformation of consumer behaviour in test regions.
The noPILLS activities are concentrating on joint activities as a supplement to the environmental policy and legislation of the EU (here: the Water Framework Directive), with a view to ensuring equivalent living conditions, environmental quality, and increasing biodiversity.
This partnership demands ecological innovation, improved management tools for "green" technologies, life-cycle focus, and cleaner production processes. The EU partners are working together on the development, application and dissemination of environmental technologies and processes. The measures realised support companies in the introduction / implementation of innovative products, processes and services in their activities, on the one hand by improving wastewater treatment, and on the other hand in the pharmaceutical industry. Above all, the new features here are the approaches taken, by addressing a broad public, and attempting to change patterns of consumption and disposal of expired pharmaceuticals amongst patients/customers.
In view of the global climate change, environmentally conscious consumption of raw materials and energy is becoming increasingly important. One option for CO2-neutral energy generation is the production of biogas from organic waste. We have been utilising this technology for a long time already in our wastewater treatment plants, and cover a significant proportion of the energy required by biogas recovery from the sewage sludge produced. This way, a majority of the electrical energy consumed in wastewater treatment plants, and virtually all of the heat energy, can be generated in a cost-effective and environmentally friendly manner in combined heat and power units. This reduces environmental pollution and is of benefit not least to the fee payer.
The quantity of biogas generated can be further increased if organic waste, e.g. from municipalities or the food industry, can be fermented together with the sewage sludge from wastewater treatment plants. We have been intensively investigating this co-fermentation process since 1996, and are now applying it on a large scale. When suitable substrates are available, the wastewater treatment plants can fully cover their own requirements, and even feed electricity into the public grid. Many wastewater treatment plants have excess capacity for co-fermenting organic waste. It makes sense to utilise this existing capacity instead of building new biogas plants. Furthermore, the wastewater treatment plant location already has the entire infrastructure required, and experienced personnel. Practical experience shows that co-fermentation hardly affects ease of dewatering or the quality of the sewage sludge, and above all pays off economically through the significant increase in biogas production, particularly in large wastewater treatment plants.
The greatest obstacle to the widespread introduction of co-fermentation has thus far been the complex approvals process, which incorporates licensing under both wastewater and waste disposal regulations. The Ministry of the Environment of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia has now made co-fermentation easier through a new legal framework. The fermented mixture of sewage sludge and waste no longer needs to pass through a sanitisation process before it is utilised in incineration plants. In addition, the centralisation of the two approvals process components is planned. On this new legal basis, co-fermentation in wastewater treatment plants will certainly receive a new boost.
Sewer inspection − Automatic inspection and cleaning
During the restructuring of the Emscher system, the wastewater of the main waterway of the Emscher has been banished into an underground sewer with unusually large dimensions (diameter between 1.2 and 2.8 metres, depths of up to 40 metres below ground). However, the Emscher wastewater sewer is not only unique because of its diameter. In contrast to ordinary mixed water sewers, it has a high water level even in dry weather, because it mostly transports wastewater to the wastewater treatment plants. There are no facilities for accessing the sewer during operation for inspections or maintenance work. Therefore, an innovative solution had to be found for the regular inspection of this monumental structure.
Together with the Fraunhofer Institute for Factory Operation and Automation IFF in Magdeburg, we have developed an automatic inspection and cleaning system, which fulfils all technical and legal requirements. Three unmanned systems ensure reliability in the sewer: The floating damage detection system identifies damage and irregularities above and below the waterline. Whether corrosion or mechanical wear, cracks, leaks, shifting of the sewer sections or obstructions, the sensors of the robot miss nothing. If a problem zone has been found, it is thoroughly cleaned by a cleaning system using high-pressure water technology, in order to create the right conditions for the third inspection phase. In this stage, a damage surveying system examines the damaged areas in detail with the aid of specially developed sensors. The width of cracks above the waterline can thus be determined using a camera system. Below the water, this task is performed by an ultrasound system. Furthermore, a thermosensor identifies even small quantities of infiltrating groundwater. It is thus ensured that even under the special conditions of the Emscher wastewater sewer, a significantly higher standard of reliability is achieved than in conventional drainage systems.
As the project manager responsible for the inspection and cleaning system, EMSCHERGENOSSENSCHAFT employee Heiko Althoff was awarded the "Golden Manhole Cover" by the Institute for Infrastructure (IKT) in 2008. The prize, which comes with an endowment of 3,000 euros, is also known as the "Oscar of the sewer industry".
ALFA – Flood protection in Northwestern Europe
The acronym ALFA stands for Adaptive Land Use for Flood Alleviation. The aim of the EU-subsidised Interreg IV B project is to protect the populations of Northwestern Europe better against the effects of the kind of flood events that may increasingly be caused by climate change.
The participants are six institutions from five European countries:
• Rijkswaterstaat (NL) (lead partner)
• Eden Rivers Trust (UK)
• EMSCHERGENOSSENSCHAFT (G)
• Interdepartmental Institute Grand Lacs de Seine (F)
• State of Rhineland-Palatinate (G)
• Vlaamse Milieumaatschappij (B)
In the partner regions, new water retention capacity is being created in order to provide a buffer against flood peaks. Land currently used predominantly for forestry and agriculture will be structured in such a way that in extreme situations it can serve to protect human lives and material assets along the rivers, without any drastic change of the present land use.
The objectives of the project are as follows:
• Improved regional strategies and measures through intensive cooperation
• Innovative technical solutions to increase water retention capacity or reduce outflow in the Project regions
• Increased awareness-raising amongst residents
• Optimised social, economic and ecological benefits in the project regions
Within the framework of ALFA, we have been occupied with our pilot project 'Pöppinghauser Bogen', which ensures improved flood protection along a downstream stretch of 40 km in length protected by a dike. The planned measures combine modular elements such as the creation of natural retention basins along the river and precautionary measures for extreme events with the implementation of infrastructural Highlights from the Emscher Future masterplan and the preservation of archaeological sites. Residents and private landowners are to be involved.
Dynaklim −Adaptation to the anticipated climate change
Together with the Aachen Research Institute for Water and Waste Management (FiW) and numerous partners, we are running the Dynaklim model project to research the adaptive capabilities of the Emscher-Lippe region to climate change. The project is planned to run for five years, and is receiving 12 million euros in funding from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).
The focus of the Dynaklim project ('Dynamic Adaptation to the Effects of Climate Change') is on the effects of the anticipated climate change on the future availability and use of water in the Emscher-Lippe region, and the associated consequences for the population, economy and environment. The catchment area of the Emscher and Lippe is after all home to around 3.8 million people. Specifically how this adaptation may look can be seen from numerous practice-based and implementation projects, e.g. for urban climate, drinking water purification, and the practical use of groundwater and stormwater.
The Dynaklim network already has more than 40 active cooperation partners, including water management companies, municipal partners, universities, initiatives, and industrial and business partners from the region. Further stakeholders from the region are welcome.
EuWAK – Natural gas and hydrogen from wastewater treatment plants
In an age of diminishing oil and natural gas reserves, hydrogen represents the fuel of the future. Thus far, hydrogen has typically been extracted from fossil fuels, and has therefore been unable to bring to bear its great advantage as a CO2-neutral, clean source of energy. Biogas from wastewater treatment plants offers the opportunity to generate large volumes of CO2-neutral "natural gas", from which hydrogen can be extracted in a second stage. Both gases can be used for energy generation in the wastewater treatment plant itself, but also for the electricity and heat supplies of neighbouring housing developments. A third option is the construction of fuel stations for vehicles that run on natural gas or hydrogen.
The pilot project 'EuWaK' is operated by the EMSCHERGENOSSENSCHAFT at the Bottrop wastewater treatment plant, where all three options will be used. With a structural volume of 1.34 million population equivalents, the wastewater treatment plant has one of the largest sewage sludge treatment capacities in Germany. The biogas generated during sludge treatment supplies three gas motors at the location of the wastewater treatment plant, which almost entirely cover the heat and electricity requirements of the facility. In the pilot project, a proportion of the biogas from the wastewater treatment plant is processed to natural gas quality. Some of this "natural gas" is used at a fuel station on the works premises to supply the vehicles of the wastewater treatment plant. The remaining "natural gas" is processed into hydrogen, and piped to the neighbouring Welheimer Mark School with its associated swimming pool. There it is used in a hydrogen motor to generate electricity and heat for the building.
Stationary and mobile use
The EuWaK project realises the entire process of decentralised hydrogen extraction, from sewage sludge to the end product. This is intended to demonstrate the functionality of a model that could potentially be transferred to the entire dense network of wastewater treatment plants in the Emscher and Lippe region. In the short term, "natural gas" could be generated there, which could either be sold locally as fuel, or fed into the natural gas network. In the long term, by contrast, biogas could supply hydrogen for stationary and mobile use – this is an established component of the energy and climate protection strategy of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia. The project is subsidised by the State Ministry for the Economy, SMEs and Energy, and by the EU.
The construction of the plant began in 2007, and the start-up process began seven months later. Research operation commenced at the end of 2008, and was initially planned to run for two years in order to determine the performance of the process. In a second stage, the manufacturing of high-purity hydrogen was then tested, which is also suitable for use in the fuel cells of motor vehicles. The wastewater treatment plant could then become a public fuel station for "natural gas" and hydrogen. The project was already running so successfully, however, that it won the Innovation Award 2008 from the International Water Association (IWA).
PILLS – Reduction of water pollution by pharmaceutical contaminants
It is increasingly common for pharmaceutical contaminants to be found in bodies of surface water and drinking water. The reason for this is not only growing water pollution with medications, but also increasingly efficient analysis technology. As a result, far lower concentrations of these elements can now be detected in the water than just a few years ago.
In the EU project PILLS (Pharmaceutical Input and Elimination from Local Sources), experts from Germany, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Scotland and France combined their efforts to tackle the problem of water pollution with pharmaceutical contaminants. As the lead partner, the EMSCHERGENOSSENSCHAFT was responsible for the management of the project. PILLS had a budget of 8 million euros. Half of this funding was provided by the partners, and the other half is provided by the European Union within the framework of the INTERREG IV B programme. The project ran from September 2007 to December 2011. Beyond that, most of the partners are continuing to run their own supplementary projects on the subject, often financed using their own resources.
Pharmaceuticals are consumed in the event of illness, and thus enter the bloodstream. Not all substances are metabolised by the body, and some are excreted again. The substances used in human medicine typically pass through the sewer system for centralised treatment in wastewater treatment plants. Even modern wastewater treatment plants using state-of-the-art technology are unable to eliminate all of these substances from the water, however. Trace substances that are very stable can in particular pass through a wastewater treatment plant unchanged. To the best of our current knowledge, the concentrations of the trace substances that are detected in bodies of surface water or in drinking water are harmless to human beings. It is however unclear what interactions may take place in the waterways as habitats, and what consequences this may have for biodiversity.
Various measures are required to reduce water contamination: Even when producing pharmaceuticals, it should be ensured that biodegradable active substances are used to a greater extent. A change in how we use pharmaceuticals, with a greater focus on using environmentally friendly products or, if medically safe, using less pharmaceuticals, can contribute to reducing water contamination. Finally, new processes for wastewater treatment can result in improved elimination of the residues.
Scientific and practical solutions
The PILLS partnership concentrated at first on the reduction of residues from pharmaceuticals used in human medicine by means of optimised wastewater treatment. The main objective of PILLS was to develop scientific and practical solutions for the treatment of wastewater from source points. In parallel, the aim was for technical and political communication to take place, along with raising public awareness of the issue. Because measures at source points with high concentrations promised to be particularly efficient, the development of local treatment plants for hospitals and nursing homes was at the focus of activities.
SIC adapt! bundled eight European projects under the leadership of the LIPPEVERBAND (including Future Cities and alfa), which dealt with various aspects of climate change. The network integrated almost 100 project partners from public offices on the national, regional and local levels, scientific institutions in all relevant sectors, and private organisations in the four fields "Water Rivers Coasts", "Urban Areas", "Nature, Forestry and Agriculture" and "Social Aspects".
The aims of SIC adapt! were to enhance individual project results and the subsidisation of measures, to challenge the EU, national and regional levels to take further action in the field of climate change, and to utilise and activate the extensive knowledge base. One hundred percent of the budget was provided by the EU, because it was a significant concern of the EU Commission and the NWE programme managers to better communicate and enhance the results of the eight participating projects on the strategic topic of "climate change", and to increase the visibility of the INTERREG projects and programmes, including in relation to the new funding period 2014-20.
SIC adapt! was handled in four work packages, with 11 activities. These included:
• Identification of synergy effects with adaptation tools for measuring the geographical vulnerability and effects of climate change
• Manual of "best practice" examples for adaptation to climate change
• Development of individual project results through networking activities in the cluster partnership
• Development of policy recommendations and central statements
Cluster Expert Board (CEB)
SIC adapt! was controlled by the coordination office, under the leadership of Network Coordinator Markus Lang, and the Finance Manager Klaus Wagner (both from LIPPEVERBAND) and the external scientific support. Eight lead partners came together with the Network Coordinator in the control group to discuss and decide on strategic orientation.
Within the framework of the Cluster Expert Board (CEB), the aforementioned activities were discussed, evaluated, and their content further developed with the aid of prepared working papers, by experts from the eight participating climate change projects, by further representatives of related climate change projects, by experts from the sciences and research, and by regional, national and EU politicians and administrative experts.
The aforementioned activities were discussed, evaluated, and their content further developed with the aid of prepared working papers, by experts from the eight participating climate change projects, by further representatives of related climate change projects, by experts from the sciences and research, and by regional, national and EU politicians and administrative experts, in the Cluster Expert Board (CEB).
The 1st CEB meeting was held on 20 and 21 June 2011 in Holzwickede, on the subject of "Tools & Measures". The 2nd meeting was held in Brussels in June 2012 on the subject of "Policy Recommendations". The final political and programme recommendations were handed over to the EU Climate Commissar Connie Hedegaard in Lille in January 2013.
All results from the cluster work, including a project video (in English) can be accessed here. Data and facts can also be found on the info cards.
Further information is available on the website: www.sic-adapt.eu