Innovative biobarrier to clean up Polish pollution

Innovative biobarrier to clean up Polish pollution Fotolia

An innovative biological approach using bacteria promises to breathe new life into industrially-polluted areas in the south of Poland.

A ‘biobarrier’ of bacterial strains that help break down contaminants in underground water is considered the best bet for an area subjected to eighty years of pollution.

The EU-funded project, aimed at protecting and improving the quality of municipal groundwater, will focus on the Wąwolnica valley near the Polish town of Jaworzno, where the Organika-Azot Chemical Plant has left substantial chemical damage.

According to experts, pollution from hydrocarbons and organochlorine pesticides, which have built up in huge quantities in the old land-fill sites of the Organika-Azot Chemicals Plant, are among the most stubborn pollutants currently in the environment.

“Pesticides, classified as persistent organic pollutants, are particularly dangerous as they do not readily degrade and over many years  have an impact on the environment and on human health,” explained Marcin Tosza from Jaworzno City Hall.

Physio-chemical methods of neutralising such pollutants are very costly and entail serious environmental damage. Bioremediation, like the biobarrier project, involve native micro-organisms or plants which carry no epidemiological risk.

The bacterial strains introduced to the biobarrier by the University of Silesia will be monitored for effectiveness over the coming months.

The intervention is part of an international project worth nearly EUR 3 million. Among the partners from six EU countries are Poland’s Central Mining Institute (GIG) in Katowice and the Jaworzno local government.