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Press release

Research and Water: Global visions, local actions

 

Brussels, 30 April 2002

Key words: water, integrated water management, tanneries, environment

 


Water is and has been determinant for life. Its presence and quality conditions human settlements, economic development and ecosystems. Unavoidably, industry consumes water, and waste originating from production processes often has negative impacts on the environment and on human health. As pointed out by Philippe Busquin, Commisioner for Research, "Water management has been on the agenda of industry for at least a decade, and thanks to the advances of scientific and technological research, significant progress has already been achieved by European industry in the sustainable use of this precious resource." Hence it is rather difficult to believe that a reduction of 90% in water consumption could still be possible in certain industries such as tanneries and leather factories. Nevertheless, this impressive result is one of the achievements obtained by three European research projects in the area of integrated water management. The projects will be presented on 2 May in Barcelona at a media briefing organised by the European Commission in the Institut d'Estudis Catalans.

Three projects will be presented to the press, addressing the challenging issues of tanneries (TANNET), the abandoned industrial sites (INCORE) and the treatment of waste water (WASTE WATER CLUSTER) to guarantee overall quality drinking water.
The merits of such projects have been to address the issue of water management from a global perspective by putting together, in an integrated manner, different small research projects tackling specific and complementary parts of the water cycle treatment.
"Sustainable water use is critical for the development of the tanning and leather industry" said Gustavo Gonzalez-Quijano, Secretary General of the Confederation of National Associations of Tanners and Dressers of the European Community. He adds: "Thanks to the application of clean and recycling technologies promoted in the TANNET research network, water pollution will not only decrease in the tanning and leather industry, but also in other industrial branches. This is due to the high transferability of the results obtained in this project, which could be useful to industries such as textile, pulp or paper industry. Overall the know-how exchange will contribute to an overall improvement of the quality of life and a more sustainable management of our soil and water resources in Europe".

Environmental research is currently supplying tanning and leather industry with a great amount of practical results of direct relevance for these two traditional European industries. Significant progress has been made for example in the recycling of chromium, a metal which cannot yet be replaced in the tanning process for certain types of leather. Innovative treatment processes have been developed to reduce the environmental impact of the 'shavings, a detrimental by-product of the leather production process.

But our precious ground- and surface water resources are also threatened by a legacy of the past, the abandoned industry, by pollutants existing in the soil since years and which are now approaching the water bodies. Permanent observation of water, soil and land consumption is essential in order to identify the most critical parts of the overall system and to reverse negative trends into positive ones. New methods to detect, monitor and quantify these threats at the earliest possible stage in urban industrial areas have been developed by these EC research projects.
The combination of the three different research approaches of "TANNET", "WASTE WATER CLUSTER" and "INCORE" provides an extremely powerful tool to support the long-term provision of drinking water of high quality. It will furthermore foster sustainable industrial production processes in European industry and have positive impacts on the employment situation in Europe.

Notes for editors: Journalists wishing to attend should contact:
Julia Acevedo (see below)
or register with:
Ana Aguilar (Tel: +32.2.7379514 - Fax: +32.2.7379501- mobile: 00 32 476 219344 - e-mail: aaguilar@hillandknowlton.com), at Hill and Knowlton International, working under contract of the EC for this event.

 

For further information concerning the projects, please contact:
Jurgen Buesing, Scientific Officer, Environment Programme, Research DG
Tel: +32 2 29 55625, Fax: +32 2 29 52097
E-mail: juergen.buesing@ec.europa.eu

For further information to the press, please contact:
Julia Acevedo, Press and Information Officer, DG Research, European Commission
Tel: +32 2 295 20 43, Fax: +32 2 295 82 20
E-mail: julia.acevedo-bueno@ec.europa.eu


ANNEX

Background information on the scientific and technological achievements of
the three projects to be presented in the media briefing
(TANNET, Waste Water Cluster and INCORE)

TANNET

The leather industry in EU consists of around 3.000 tanneries employing 50.000 people. The industry is located in all European countries, except Luxembourg, although the majority of the industry is located in the southern part of Europe.
TANNET, the network for European Leather Industry has produced a qualitative change in the European tanning sector with regard to R&D. TANNET has raised the tanner's awareness on their need for innovation in products and production processes. Investing in R&D allows them to comply with new regulatory developments in the field of environment, save resources or reduce cost and to keep the competitive edge with regard to their competitors. TANNET has contributed to tanners recognising the link between R&D, environmental performance and economic development. TANNET has build up an European Network for the leather industry and has also recommended a strategy or environmental research for the European leather industry. TANNET has served as catalyst to increase the participation of tanneries in EU projects. More than 10 EU proposals were initiated due to the initiative of TANNET covering a broad range of environmental needs of tannery industry. Examples are "water-free retanning, dyeing and fatliquoring" of leather as an innovative environmentally-friendly automated processes and the "tannery sludge project" that tackles chromium-related issues such as "chromium recovery and re-use".

The results achieved within TANNET are also used to facilitate the implementation of the IPPC Directive adopted on 24 September 1996 (Directive 96/61/EC; OJL 257 October 10, 1996). The final draft of the BREF for tanneries was approved by the IEF (Information Exchanger Forum) in the beginning of May 2001.

Some figures and main achievements:

TANNET: 10 core partners (leather research institutes)
Duration: 26 months
EU funding: 280.000 EURO
* Reduction of the discharge of chromium into the waste water by 90% through

  • higher chromium uptake during the tanning process;
  • re-circulation and re-use of chromium from tanning;
  • replacement of chromium through other compounds.

* Gasification of leather waste and sludge is being practised in a full scale gasification plant in Norway.
* Incineration of wet blue shavings is possible without technical problems; the composition of the ash seems to be suitable for use in metallurgic industry.
* Membrane filtration proved to be extremely useful for the re-use of both process water and process chemicals in leather industry.
*A 90% reduction of water consumption can be expected.
* TANNET has built a European network with more than 300 members.
* TANNET recommended and implemented a strategy for environmental research for the European leather industry.
* TANNET produced a report describing the environmental state-of the art for the leather industry.

WASTE WATER CLUSTER

The WASTE WATER CLUSTER (WWC) was created in July 1997 and it involves five European research projects from the Fourth Framework Program. This cluster has improved the understanding of the transformation, fate and toxicity of selected groups of industrial pollutants from the industrial and urban sectors discharged into the water/soil resources and wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) by using complementary sampling and advanced measuring techniques. More information and understanding on emerging contaminants present in the effluent treatment process of the industrial and urban sectors and as well on the effluents reaching WWTP was achieved. The WWC supplies measuring devices based on biosensors for monitoring of organic pollutants in waste waters. This represents a valuable tool for industry, and the tanning industry in particular, for monitoring effluent loads and surface water quality of receiving waters. Such devices can be used for guiding the industry on where to concentrate its efforts for continuing environmental improvements towards a sustainable development.
The expertise and knowledge acquired within WWC is being transferred to water industry and chemical industry as well. An increase of competitiveness and economic investment within the EU is expected. The results achieved by the WWC are already being used for helping the implementation of Urban Waste Water Directive, 91/271/EC and of the Water Framework Directive , 2000/C 177 E/11 of 27.6.2000.

Some figures and main achievements:

5 EU RTD projects, 30 research teams
Duration: 1997 - 2002
EU funding: 3.500.000 EURO

* An integrated immuno extraction sampling and portable biosensor prototype for in-field monitoring of water and waste water has been constructed.
* An automated on-line field sampling and monitoring instrument for micro-pollutants in industrial waste water has been built.
* A measurement and monitoring strategy of priority surfactants and their toxic metabolites in waste effluent discharges has been developed.
* A biosensor to measure endocrine disrupting chemicals has been developed and tested for surface water, waste water and sludge.

INCORE

INCORE provides an effective and sustainable investigation and remediation strategy of groundwater and soil in urban areas, including areas with leather production industry. The project idea was based on " Integrated investigation of contaminated sites in the Neckar river basin Stuttgart". INCORE is based on a comprehensive identification of the pollutant emissions of an extensive contemplation area instead of single spots. The investigation strategy combines the integral groundwater investigation done by immission pumping tests and specific site investigation, as on-site analysis and isotopic analysis. The remediation strategy focuses on the use of various innovative remediation techniques for the centres of the contamination combined with passive approaches and the use of Natural Attenuation in the downstream area. The project has a strong urban component and several European cities (Stuttgart, Strasbourg, Linz and Milano) are active participants of the project INCORE improves the groundwater quality in accordance with the requirements stated in the Water Framework Directive . INCORE investigates contaminated sites and consequently the quality of soil is a major issue. The Draft Soil Communication Document has been recently prepared by the EU in view of a regulatory frame for soil protection. This document stresses the European dimension of the soil as well as the need to tackle soil problems. In European and international standardisation it becomes more and more accepted, that contaminated materials (including soils and sediments) are not judged based on the contaminant concentration in the solid phase alone, but on the concentration to be expected in water contacting such materials

Some figures

INCORE: 10 European partners
Duration: 36 months
EU funding: 2.438.000 EURO

 

              

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