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Central & Eastern Europe

Poland

Hungary

Czech Republic

Poland

Background

In 1995, the "Agreement for Technical Exchange and Cooperation between the Department of Energy of the United States of America and the Institute for Ecology of Industrial Areas of the Republic of Poland in the Area of Environmental Restoration and Hazardous Waste Management" was signed to promote international scientific collaboration. The overall objective of this international partnership is to assist DOE in meeting its domestic environmental restoration and waste management goals.

Joint Coordinating Committee for Environmental Systems (JCCES)

A Joint Coordinating Committee for Environmental Systems (JCCES) was established to manage the activities conducted under the auspices of this agreement. The JCCES meets annually to review and approve proposals, assess program progress, and determine the level of future activities for implementation. JCCES membership consists of specialists, from both countries, who represent each technical area of cooperation.

In collaboration with DOE Office of Science and Technology (OST), the following organizations are contributing to the management and implementation of activities under the auspices of the JCCES.

  • Institute for Ecology and Industrial Areas (IETU)
  • Risk Abatement Center for Central and Eastern Europe
  • Florida State University, Institute for International Cooperative Environmental Research

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Current Projects

Bioremediation of Petroleum Contaminated Soil: The Czechowice Oil Refinery

The Czechowice Oil Refinery Project is being managed and implemented under the auspices of the JCCES. The project, started in 1997, utilizes the broad technical expertise of Westinghouse Savannah River Company (WSRC), Ames Laboratory and Florida State University (FSU). The overall objective of the bioremediation project is to conduct a full scale remediation demonstration of petroleum contaminated soil at the Czechowice Oil Refinery using innovative bioremediation technologies. The refinery project demonstrates not only specific characterization and remediation technologies, but also the decision making process applied when determining how to implement technology. A risk-based decision making approach was completed to guide the final selection and remedial design. This approach provided a plan that will take into account the intended future use of the site as a green zone between the refinery and the local population.

The refinery project brings together several proven techniques and remediation tools used to remove and/or destroy contaminants, via biostimulation of indigenous microbes found in the environment. The basic concepts of this technology are applicable to sites in the DOE complex having similar problems, especially those with contaminated soil with low pH levels. These sites include Oak Ridge, Hanford, Savannah River, Idaho, and Brookhaven.

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Project Accomplishments

During the continued operation process of the biopile, numerous unique indigenous microbes have been discovered. Due to the long operating history of the refinery and the use of an acid cracking process, indigenous microbial communities have adapted to the unique low pH environment and low temperature climate. These conditions are of great interest to DOE since many of DOE wastes are very acidic and vary in climatic conditions.

The project has currently identified 36 isolates, which may exhibit properties and capabilities currently unreported in the scientific literature. Future microbial analysis and isolation techniques will provide the opportunity to determine if any of these microorganisms are indeed unique and thus patentable for use at contaminated DOE sites with conditions similar to those found in Poland. By identifying and patenting unique microorganisms/bioprocesses, DOE would be ensuring that these organisms are available for use throughout the DOE complex and the world.

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Fiscal Year 1999 Activities

The Fiscal Year 1999 project collaborations between DOE and IETU include: Effectiveness of Surfactants, Microbial Patentability Study, and the Completion of a Report on Bioremediation.

Effectiveness of Surfactants

Various surfactants are being evaluated during Fiscal Year 1999. Candidate surfactants that exhibit a high probability for success will be chosen for use in the biopile, and their effectiveness will be determined. The refinery site also has fairly high concentrations of heavy metals in the soil. This allows for the determination of the effects surfactants have on the mobility of metals.

In conjunction with the continued operation of the biopile, in situ long term monitoring devices are being deployed in the biopile to determine their effectiveness in providing long-term hands off data collection. Installation of such devices in the biopile will generate field performance data, that upon evaluation, could support immediate deployment of these devices to DOE sites.

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Microbial Patentability Study

General microbiological laboratory techniques are being used to isolate and culture pure strains of each identified microorganism. Once isolated, the unique properties of each strain are identified (biochemical, physiological, and molecular) and a literature/patent search will be conducted to determine if the organism and/or a bioprocess based on the organisms has been isolated or registered previously. The patent process will continue for those organisms and/or bioprocesses that show scientific promise and that have not yet been copyrighted.

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Completion of a Report on Bioremediation

At the completion of the oil refinery project, a detailed and comprehensive report will be completed and published. This report will assist the DOE in identifying new areas of research through which the specific techniques learned during this study can be applied to the environmental remediation needs of the DOE complex.

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Proposed Fiscal Year 2000 Activities

Molecular characterization of acidophillic microbes

One result of the Czechowice Oil Refinery biopile project was the identification of petroleum hydrocarbon-degrading microbes that are adapted to conditions of low pH (< 2). These uniquely adapted organisms have potential application to sites within the DOE complex as well as in industrial settings throughout the U.S., and hence, it may be possible to license the use of these organisms for commercial use. In order to evaluate the potential for licensing and commercial application, molecular characterization studies will be conducted. These studies will be conducted jointly between the IETU and WSRC. The various responsibilities for the characterization activities will be divided between the IETU and WSRC, with the final product being an application for a patent.

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Bioremediation of Nitroaromatic Compounds

Nitroaromatic compounds are common and widespread contaminants at industrial and military sites worldwide, and within the DOE complex. As a result of the on-going activities at the Czechowice Oil Refinery biopile project, IETU and DOE have well-developed microbiological capabilities at their disposal. The application of bioremediation to nitroaromatic compounds will be examined and studied for potential future use at DOE sites.

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Phytoremediation Project: An Integrated Approach to the Remediation of Heavy Metal Contaminated Land

Project Description

Under the auspices of the JCCES, a phytoremediation project was initiated to demonstrate alternative environmental remediation technologies to Poland and other countries in the region. This project combines the DOE need for an effective and efficient technology to remediate moderate levels of heavy metal contamination with IETU’s experience and qualification in this area. The goal of this project is to evaluate and refine phytoremediation as a method to remediate heavy metal contaminated soil in an efficient and cost-effective manner for application at DOE sites.

The basic research of phytoremediation has lead to interest in the commercialization of this technology for environmental remediation. Considerable research has been reported on the laboratory-scale application of phytoremediation, however little information is available concerning the cost, performance, and advantages of a full-scale application. An objective of this project was the optimization of full-scale application of phytoremediation and the development and documentation of those results. Different species of plants, which have the ability to uptake and sequester moderate to large levels of heavy metals into their plant structure, are being evaluated. In addition, the effects of Ethylenedinitro Tetraacetic Acid (EDTA) to increase the availability of these metals to the plants and the use of a Chlorophyll Flurometer to optimize the phytoremediation process was also investigated. The target metal for this project is lead, although cadmium (Cd) is also being evaluated.

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Project Accomplishments

Site Identification and Treatability Study

Using the existing IETU database on soil contamination in the Katowice province, DOE and IETU evaluated four potential sites for this project. Candidate sites were initially identified based on existing vegetation (indicating potential plant growth); minimal relief; proximity to a water source and electric supply; road access; Pb (Lead) concentrations between 500 and 5000 ppm; and contamination limited to the top 30 cm of soil. IETU collected five soil samples from each of the candidate sites for a suite of analyses. Based on these results, and in consultation with FSU and Phytotech, two candidate sites were selected for further characterization and treatability studies.

In 1997, treatability studies were conducted using soil samples collected from the two candidate sites. These studies determined the potential applicability of phytoremediation by providing further characterization of the soil samples, determining if the sites would support the growth of metal-accumulating plants, and analyzing the need for soil amendments to optimize the phytoremediation process. The treatability studies consisted of two experimental activities; soil sampling and analysis and growth chamber experiments which included soil amendments application. The purpose of the growth chamber studies was to evaluate the growth potential of selected plant species and to determine the soil amendment protocol necessary to optimize plant growth and heavy metal uptake. The tests indicated that: (a) both of the selected sites were able to support growth of all plant species tested; (b) that the most efficient amendment was the combination of 5 mmol EDTA/kg and 50 mmol HNO3/kg; (c) that independent of the amendment selected, spinach accumulated the highest concentrations of Pb and Cd in its shoots; and (d) that corn, spinach, and cabbage with rape would be the best to use for the field-scale experiments of phytoremediation.

Upon selection of the final site, additional field tests were performed. Three plant species and three soil treatment strategies were tested in 3x3 meter field plots. Based on the results of these experiments, two plant species/treatment combinations were selected for full-scale evaluation.

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Field-Scale Demonstration

At the completion of site and species/treatment selection, a field-scale demonstration was conducted to identify and quantify the relative costs and performance of phytoremediation. The field-demonstration plot consisted of a one-hectare area with lead concentrations ranging from 200-500 mg/kg. All costs associated with the effort were recorded in generic units (e.g., man-hours, tractor-hours, volume of amendment applied, etc). Initial analysis of these results show that amendments represent a large portion of the costs associated with phytoremediation.

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Metal Accumulating Species Screening

In conjunction with the field demonstration, the project has conducted additional investigation of potential heavy metal accumulating plant species native to Poland. The goal of these studies was to identify plant species that maximize the overall removal of metal from soil. These investigations were based on the assumption that plants growing naturally in historically contaminated areas (such as the mine tailings piles and soils adjacent to smelting operations found in the Silesian region of Poland) may have adapted to high metals concentrations by absorbing those metals. Based on decisions made cooperatively between the IETU, Phytotech and the Polish Institute for Plant Growth, 26 plant species were chosen for investigation. Among these species, one particular culture of Polish sunflower performed the best, taking up concentrations of lead that compare with the best known metal accumulating plant species while producing large quantities of biomass.

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Evaluation of Soil Amendment: EDTA

Traditional phytoremediation relies heavily on soil amendments/chelating agents to mobilize otherwise unavailable metals from soil. One of the most commonly used amendments is EDTA. Prior to this project, concern had been raised over the potential effects of repeated application of EDTA on the environment. The DOE/IETU team, in cooperation with the University of Silesia, evaluated those effects by determining the toxicity of soil amendments to soil microbiota. These studies are the first of their kind and showed that no adverse effects of EDTA were observed on soil microbiota. It was shown that, in specific situations, there was enhanced microbial activity following amendment application, possibly as a result of increased availability of essential nutrients. These results were promising and addressed concerns raised previously by U.S. regulators on the effects of EDTA on the soil community.

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Optimization of Phytoremediation with Chlorophyll Flurometry

An ongoing aspect of the phytoremediation project has been the integration of in situ monitoring instrumentation with the field activities. An innovative field-portable Chlorophyll Fluorometer has been developed by the Technical University of Budapest and is being commercialized by Central European Advanced Technologies. This instrument has been deployed in conjunction with the past phytoremediation experiments. Activities focused on optimizing the timing and magnitude of amendment application by monitoring plant stress. As noted previously, amendment costs represent a significant portion of project costs and, as such, anything that reduces amendment use increases the cost efficiency of phytoremediation. Other significant findings were that crops seem to be more sensitive to irrigation than was previously presumed and that a longer delay between amendment application and harvesting may enhance overall metal removal.

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Plant Species/Soil Amendment Investigations

Based on the prior results of field and plant screening activities, the project team continued investigations at both laboratory and field scale to optimize plant species and amendment protocol combinations. The most promising results of this research concerns the utilization of compounds that enhance plant metabolism and increase respiration. These compounds appear to enhance the uptake of metals in combinations with other amendments.

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Fiscal Year 1999 Activities

The Fiscal Year 1999 project collaborations between DOE and IETU include: Continuation of Evaluation of Soil Amendment: EDTA, Management of Contaminated Crops, Amendment Application Technology, Streamlined Site Characterization and Treatability Studies, Soil and Plant Amendment Studies, and U.S. Field Deployment of Phytoremediation.

Continuation of Evaluation of Soil Amendment: EDTA

The current process for heavy metal phytoextraction involves the application of chelating agents and acids to the target soils in order to enhance the uptake of heavy metals by the plants. The need for multiple crops of these phytoremediating plants over numerous growing seasons presents the possibility of adverse ecological impacts from the effects of repetitive applications.

Soil microbial toxicity tests are being conducted using current phytoextraction soil amendments. Further investigations on soil biology are being performed with respect to the identification of EDTA levels that are toxic to microbiologic and metabolic soil activity. During the course of laboratory experiments, it is planned to determine the EDTA dose which results in a breakdown of soil biological activity. The results of these studies will be integrated into an ecological risk assessment for this technology.

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Management of Contaminated Crops

After harvesting, phytoremediation plant material contains relatively high concentrations of metals and must be treated as a hazardous material with the appropriate handling considerations. Various methods for harvesting and disposing of the contaminated plants are being investigated. Harvesting considerations include timing the harvest to minimize material loss through plant tissue aging and decomposition, managing the physical harvesting to maximize the recovery of contaminated material while using standard agricultural methods, and handling the harvested materials to minimize loss and exposure to human and non-human health.

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Amendment Application Technology

As previously reported, the application of amendments associated with phytoremediation contributes significantly to the costs of applying phytoextraction technologies. Those costs are a function of the cost of the materials as well as the labor-intensive methods currently used in the application process. The project team is developing a mechanized approach to the amendment application that utilizes modified agricultural equipment and should result in a faster, more uniform and accurate application of amendments to target soils.

A design protocol is being developed that will be tested under full field conditions during the FY1999 growing season. This prototype will result in new technology standards that can be used to evaluate various phytoremediation scenarios independent of specific technology providers.

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Streamlined Site Characterization and Treatability Studies

Site characterization activities and treatability studies currently are conducted sequentially prior to the initiation of phytoextraction. The purpose of these activities is to describe the nature and extent of contamination at the target site and to determine under what conditions the proposed plant species will extract the target contaminants. This process is time consuming and expensive. This activity is developing an approach that integrates these two activities into a single effort leading to rapid decisions concerning the feasibility of phytoextraction for a given site, while reducing both effort and cost.

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Soil and Plant Amendment Studies

During this project, new specialized plants species and soil amendments were identified that show promise in phytoextraction. These practices are being applied to a field scale demonstration to evaluate their effectiveness and costs. The results will be compared to the previous demonstrations, ensuring the promotion of the most efficient and cost-effective practices. In addition, the information acquired by the streamlined site characterization and treatability studies are being used to support the deployment of these identified species/amendments.

In conjunction with these studies, the project is continuing to screen native plant species with promising metal accumulating capabilities. This involves selecting, collecting, and raising native species at laboratory and/or experimental plot scales. Target species are being raised in heavy metal-contaminated soils which will then be harvested and analyzed for metal concentrations. The applicability of winter crops is also being investigated for the potential of producing an additional harvest each year.

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U.S. Field Deployment of Phytoremediation

A goal of this task is to identify and evaluate environmental remediation technologies which have potential application to DOE sites. It is anticipated that phytoextraction is ready for field application at a DOE site, and a site identification process is being conducted. This includes identifying an appropriate DOE site based on the applicability of phytoextraction, developing working relationships with technical and support contacts, and initiating the necessary DOE permitting processes. After the site is identified and the site characterization process is completed, a test plan and treatability study will be conducted. It is anticipated that field-demonstration studies could be implemented in the U.S. during Fiscal Year 2000.

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Proposed Fiscal Year 2000 Activities

Computerized Application of Soil Amendments (Phytoremediation)

Results from the 1998 Phytoremediation field studies indicate that approximately 70% of the cost of phytoremediation is associated with the purchasing and application of soil amendments. Since the need for amendments is a function of soil metal concentration and speciation, it would be possible to minimize the use of amendments if information concerning the nature and distribution of soil metals were used to control the application of amendments. The automated amendment application technology that has been developed by the IETU will be modified to accept computerized input to control application rates. It is estimated that amendment application rates could be reduced by as much as 50%, yielding an overall reduction of up to 30% of the cost of phytoremediation. On-going analysis of native plant species for metal accumulation capabilities would also continue.

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Evaluation of Novel Mercury Remediation Technology

Mercury contamination is wide spread within the DOE complex, at many other federal facilities, and at industrial facilities throughout the world. A consulting firm in Poland has developed a technology for reducing the bioavailability of ionic forms of mercury in groundwater (and possibly, soil). This technology shows promise for reducing the risks posed by certain forms of mercury contamination and is ready for field-testing. Preliminary discussions with the developers indicate that an industrial site in Southern Poland may be suitable for field testing this technology. Appropriate site characterization studies will be conducted to determine whether or not this site would be appropriate for field testing of this technology. If the results of this evaluation are positive, initial set-up and testing will be conducted in anticipation of full field testing in Fiscal Year 2001.

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1st JCCES

The first Joint Coordinating Committee for Environmental Systems (JCCES) was held in Augusta, Georgia on April 26, 1999. The meeting focused on the two joint projects between DOE and IETU; the Bioremediation Project and the Phytoremediation Project.

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Bioremediation Project

An overview was provided of the current Czechowice Oil Refinery Project which was initiated in 1995/96. Initial efforts included the selection of the oil refinery, expedited site characterization, completion of a risk assessement, and determination of the bioremediation technology. The following benefits were noted:

  • Deployment of Baroball aeration system
  • Isolation of 30 strains of microbes capable of degradation at low temperature and pHs
  • Permission from the State of South Carolina to use Biopile technology at SRS for remediation of petroleum contaminated soils

It was mutually agreed that the following projects would be implemented by IETU in Fiscal Year 2000 in the area of bioremediation:

  • Production-Scale Implementation of Petroleum Contaminated Soils Bioreactor
  • Molecular Characterization of Acidophillic Microbes
  • Bioremediation of Nitroaromatic Compounds

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Phytoremediation Project

A general overview as well as a technical presentation were given on the details of the phytoremediation project. It was confirmed that the remaining phytoremediation activities for FY1999 include the following:

  • Treatment of a "third" crop which was planted during the winter of 1998
  • Continue to research and obtain detailed composting information
  • Apply and evaluate mechanized application process
  • Working on identifying a U.S. DOE site in FY1999 for potential deployment

It was mutually agreed that the following projects would be implemented by IETU in Fiscal Year 2000 in the area of phytoremediation:

  • Cost-Effective Phytoremediation (computerized application of soil amendments)
  • Evaluation of Novel Mercury Remediation technology

It was mutually agreed that the Second JCCES will be held in approximately one year.

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Hungary

The Development and Field-Testing of a Highly Specialized Chlorophyll Fluorometer for Measuring Environmental Stress on Plants

The project is being conducted by Central European Advanced Technologies and the Department of Atomic Physics of the Technical University of Budapest.

Chlorophyll Fluorescence can be used to measure plant stress and can provide real time, in situ information concerning the effects of the phytoremediation process on the plants. By optimizing the phytoremediation process, a more efficient, cost-effective operating system can be developed. In June 1997, a progress report was submitted entitled, "Development of Field Measurement Program, Conduct IETU Training and Evaluation of Field Performance of Prototype Instrument," which included information about placing the system into operation, finalizing the measurement program, training of an IETU technician, and performance of the instrument in the field. This report assisted the IETU/DOE team in the application of a Chlorophyll Fluorometer to their phytoremediation project.

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Czech Republic

Polyacrylonitrile Project

EM is continuing a project with the Czech Technical University at Prague to evaluate the performance and radiation and chemical stability of Polyacrylonitrile (PAN) as a binder material for inorganic ion exchange such as AMP. This material has been tested for removal of cesium from acid wastes at Idaho National Energy and Engineering Laboratory (INEEL) and showed exceptional removal efficiencies and capabilities for cesium. Studies of the compatibility of PAN with alkaline solutions indicated that the presence of high nitrate concentrations causes some changes in material; PAN appears to be more stable in acid solutions like those found at DOE sites. The early development and testing of PAN was supported by the Efficient Separation and Processing Crosscutting Program (ESP) and subsequent testing was continued by the Waste Management Program at INEEL. Annual progress reports were issued during the ESP work, and several papers were presented at appropriate technical meetings. The results are summarized in a paper entitled "Applications of New Inorganic-Organic Composite Absorbers with Polyacrylonitrile Binding Matrix for Separation of Radionuclides from Liquid Radioactive Wastes" which was presented at the NATO conference at Dubna in 1998. This project is being continued through FY2000, with continuous testing to determine the optimization for the degradation process.

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Review of Advanced Separations Technologies in the Czech Republic

Under a contract with EM, the Czech Nuclear Research Institute conducted a Review of Advance Separations Technologies in the Czech Republic project. The review covers technologies in use or under development that deal with solvent extraction, ion exchange, and adsorption.

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Jack Watson, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, 423/574-6795

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