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Overview

 New sediment layers accumulating on the floors of rivers, canals, lakes, and harbours in industrialised countries contain varying amounts of contaminants which have been discharged from a range of activities, both legal and illegal. These contaminated sediments are known collectively as sludge, and have been accumulating since the 1950’s. The contamination is often startling; the River Rhine discharges 13 tons of Cadmium annually to the North Sea, of which 8 tons comes from Dutch industry. The Rhine, together with similar surface waters, provides 65% of drinking water in the Netherlands. The identification of contamination in waterways like these has led to the realisation that there is a need to carry out surveys of the pollution, in many cases followed by remediation. Contaminated water floors, though probably created in the past, continue to disperse their pollutants in the water, thus creating a potential effect on the quality of drinking water and recreational water. During the Exploratory Award phase (contract nr. EXAW-1999-00452) it has been shown that this is a European problem. Remediation work can only be carried out in a cost effective way if it is preceded by a site survey which provides high resolution data. 95% of current site surveys are done by collecting hand drilled cores for examination and analysis. These point sources of data are then used to try to give an impression of the sludge layers, but the resolution is extremely poor. Contamination may be found, but the volumes cannot be quantified. Contaminated water floors, though probably created in the past, continue to disperse their pollutants in the water, thus creating a potential effect on the quality of drinking water and recreational water.

 The market for surveying the European Waterways has been calculated as worth 700 M Euro. The savings realised by using the new combined technologies of this project are 30% of standard survey costs, while the quality of information provided is far more detailed. Saving in remediation costs would therefore be huge.

 Two technologies which are applicable in this field are high resolution shallow seismics, and water-borne, or submerged GeoRadar. The two SME proposers of this project are leaders in these fields, and as has been shown by the Exploratory Award, the added value of trying to combine the two methods, though technically challenging, offers the perspectives of a highly advanced environmental technology. This project will use as starting point the results of the Exploratory Award, and the new combination of GeoRadar and Shallow Seismics will undergo extensive field trials during this project, where needed being optimised to develop an effective tool in waterway sludge surveys. The relevance of a new, combined technology to the SMEs is clear, as it would help them develop and maintain their European lead. The project is also relevant to the 5th Framework Environment programme, since it will contribute to the stated aims of securing sustainable water supplies through the development of innovative tools for characterising pollution sources, monitoring strategies and analysis.