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Rehabilitation of soils from industrial pollution: Horizon 2020 addresses a Mediterranean urgency

on 13 October 2014.

Industrial operations have produced many environmentally hazardous sites throughout the Mediterranean region, which pose substantial health and other risks to both humans and ecosystems, affecting all aspects of sustainable development.

To address this reality the EU funded Mediterranean Environment Programme organized a sub-regional training course in Algiers (24-25 September, 2014) dedicated to the rehabilitation of soils from industrial pollution with emphasis on highly toxic pollutants such as PCBs, mercury (Hg), cadmium (Cd) and lead (Pb). More than 40 professionals from Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia were trained on the various strategies and processes that are used to purify and revitalize soils that have been contaminated by polluting anthropogenic activities. They were from Ministries of Environment, Industry, Health, and other sub-national bodies responsible for industrial pollution issues. A few industries and NGOs had the opportunity to benefit from the training as well.

This EU funded sub-regional training was organized in support of the objectives of the Horizon 2020 Initiative to depollute the Mediterranean by 2020 by the University of Athens and the Austrian Environment Agency with the support of Mediterranean Action Plan of UNEP. The Director General of the Ministry of Environment of Algeria, Mr. Tolba also contributed to the meeting as did Ms. Favret of the EU Delegation to Algeria.

Some of the most common sources of soil contamination are industrial and mining activities, including big chemical/petrochemical industries, e.g. crude oil refineries, metallurgies; large combustion plants including sites used to store wastes, raw material, etc.; dumping sites, old landfills, etc.; and major transport infrastructures (airports, ports, etc.).

A variety of soil treatment and decontamination strategies, processes and techniques were presented through applied examples and case studies including the application of fluids, biological agents (employing bacteria or plants), heat, vacuum, pressurized gases and mechanical agitation frequently combined with chemical oxidation of organic contaminants.

Algeria soil training