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A call for projects to better characterise micropollutants and reduce them at their source

Last June, Onema, the Ecology ministry and the Water agencies jointly launched a call for projects titled Innovation and changes in work habits for micropollutants in urban wastewater. The goal is to provide local governments with a chance to test under real conditions innovative solutions for the identification and reduction of micropollutants.

Micropollutants, produced by households, industrial sites, hospitals or during the construction and maintenance of urban facilities, are an increasingly serious problem that requires more attention. These substances are present in urban wastewater and discharged to aquatic environments. Even at very low concentrations, they can have serious effects on ecosystems and human health.

Innovative solutions and practices

The call for projects concerns all stakeholders dealing with micropollutants in urban wastewater, but primarily local governments. It is part of the national plan against micropollutants managed by the Ecology ministry and part of the RDI policy (research, development, innovation) implemented by Onema and the Water agencies over the 2013 to 2018 period. Funding will be awarded primarily to approaches targeting innovative solutions and practices. The projects must identify the emitting activities, set priorities for micropollutants and propose process assessments in view of characterising the pollutants and reducing them at their source. Examples of potential solutions include modifications in product use, substitute products, collection targeting specific types of waste and retention of wastewater prior to its release to collective collecting systems. In addition, the projects must, wherever possible, be part of an integrated approach ranging from pollution diagnosis and prevention to impact monitoring and assessment, while taking into account the social and economic feasibility of the tested solutions. Finally, typical projects will bring in several partners, be managed by the local government and involve an array of stakeholders, including environmental-protection groups, industrial companies, the trades, researchers, laboratories and engineering firms.

Pooling of resources and dissemination of feedback

The initial projects selected by the national steering committee will start in the beginning of 2014 and can last for up to five years. The project manager must report regularly to the committee on the progress achieved. A network federating the various projects, managed by Onema and the Water agencies, will ensure visibility on the national level and pooling of resources between the projects. The network will also serve to disseminate nationally the innovations and results achieved on the local level. The total funding budget provided by Onema and the Water agencies for the projects is ten million euros over the 2013-2018 period.

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