Out of around 100,000 chemicals used widely in Europe, persistent and bioactive pollutants are a major concern due to their irreversible effects and accumulation in the environment.

The four critical groups of persistent contaminants on which Aragorn focus are:

  • PFAS (per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances)
  • OCBs (organochlorine/bromine compounds)
  • PETCO (petroleum and coal) compounds
  • Metals

These pollutants, in contaminated sites but also along with routine soil applications like pesticides and sludge, pose a constant toxic pressure on the soil, organisms and humans, through soil, dust, and air.

Contaminated sites

Existing pollution mainly comes from industrial and mining activities, fire-training facilities and waste sites, but many others polluting activities remain unidentified. The number and diversity of identified polluted sites have also increased over the past years, so the questions are:

  • How to prioritise places and actions?
  • How to speed up remediation processes?

ARAGORN works with public and private land managers in multiple contaminated sites across Europe, characterizing them for a large number of persistent pollutants. The collaboration aims to help making informed decisions, offering mapping tools, restorative remediation, planning tools, and co-creative processes.

Mapping and monitoring

Mapping and monitoring tools are crucial for identifying and guiding decisions on how best to remediate pollution. A better understanding of potentially contaminated sites requires an overview of which chemicals have been produced and used, and for which purposes.

Challenges arise from the lack of guidance in historic inventories, country-specific regulations, and EU-wide limit values for soil contaminants: this is why for Aragorn it’s essential to choose the right methods to ensure accurate risk assessment and address pollution effectively.

In ARAGORN we will address these challenges through different actions:

  • Inventories on contaminated sites (including their history and remediation status)
  • Sampling plans
  • Test and predictive methods (including physical, chemical, biological, modelling, and chemometric methods)
  • Monitoring methods
  • Source tracking

Remediation and restoration

While remediation aims to make soil safe, it’s not always a straightforward solution. Some methods can harm soil structure, impact greenhouse gas retention, and damage ecosystems. Deciding whether to intervene or not requires considering sustainability factors like energy use, greenhouse gas emissions and ecosystem health to avoid regrettable remediation.

ARAGORN develops a holistic approach for remediating and restoring soil, considering both human and environmental perspectives. It explores the effectiveness of nature-based and bio-based solutions in enhancing soil health and resilience to geohazards, especially in the context of resilience-based management.

In ARAGORN, remediation and restoration challenges focus on three assessments:

  • Risk (to humans and ecosystems)
  • Socioeconomic impact (sustainability and cost-benefit impact of remediation actions compared to inaction)
  • Post-remediation resilience (resilience against natural and human-induced threats)