1. Definition of study areas for emerging pollutants (EPs)

This activity is aimed at collecting existing data on the occurrence of known and unknown EPs in different wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) and in the surface waters of the northern  Portugal and Galicia. The objective is to develop analytical tools and strategies for the identification of EPs in surface and waste waters  coming from the different industrial and urban activities carried out in these regions, as well as from runoff waters in soils affected by fires.

The EPs to be studied in other stages of the project (which include transformation of EPs, modeling, disposal through advanced treatments, ecotoxicological studies and risk assessment ) will be prioritized. This activity will also define the location of the sampling points and will select the WWTPs to be studied in the different hydrographic basins, taking into account the areas most affected by the occurrence of EPs.

This activity will be coordinated by the INTECMAR with the support of the USC and the agencies in charge of water management in both regions.

Expected results:

  • Identifying the sources of EPs in the selected areas.
  • Developing analytical tools for the study of EPs and their Transformation Products (TPs).
  • Prioritizing the EPs to be studied.


2. Destination and transformation of EPs and modeling of their behavior: monitoring tools

This activity is aimed at studying the environmental transport, degradation, destination and behavior of the EPs identified in activity 1. The objective is to study the behavior of the EPs in the selected WWTPs, considering the different treatments applied, mainly the biological and tertiary treatments. To that aim, not only the EP precursors will be taken into account, but also their Transformation Products (TPs). This will allow the efficiency evaluation of several WWTPs and will contribute to the development of treatments that improve the removal of EPs.

In addition, this activity is intended to identify the formed TPs during water treatment processes and their concentration relative to the parental compound. Finally, the aim is to develop models for the distribution of EPs and their TPs in fresh surface and transitional waters (rías and estuaries), as well as to identify the most relevant spots for the location of sampling stations for future environmental monitoring actions. 

These tasks will establish the methodologies for the EPs environmental monitoring to be used by the administrative bodies and entities responsible for water management. Besides, they will contribute to the evaluation of  the risk and impact of these EPs on the production of mollusks and other sensitive biological communities, thus allowing the optimization of water quality control and monitoring networks.

This activity is coordinated by the USC, with the support of the INTECMAR, FEUP, CIIMAR and APA.

Expected results:

  • Studying the transformation of prioritized EPs.
  • Studying the concentration of EPs and their disposal rates in WWTPs.
  • Studying the dissemination and modeling of EPs and the compounds derived from the runoff and leaching of soils affected by fires.
3. Development of nanotechnologies for wastewater treatment

This activity is aimed at assessing and demonstrating the efficiency of membrane reactors with antifouling properties, both at laboratory and pilot scale, in removing EPs from urban wastewater at the polishing stage. It is also focused on reusing wastewater and contributing to the sustainable management of water resources and the protection of ecosystems.

In addition, it is intended that the catalytic/electrocatalytic activity of the membrane will increase its permeability, hydrophobicity and antifouling properties, thus generating a high quality permeate, or filtrate with low organic load. The developed membranes will allow the permeation of small molecules and water through their pores (separation function) and, simultaneously due to  their catalytic/electrocatalytic activity, they will prevent fouling by the degradation of organic contaminants deposited on the surface of the membrane. 

This activity is coordinated by the FEUP, with the support of the USC and CIIMAR. 

Expected results:

  • Developing functionalized membranes with antifouling properties.
  • Developing electrocatalytic/photoelectrocatalytic membrane reactors to remove EPs from domestic wastewater collected at WWTPs.
4. Development of new modeling and ecotoxicological tools to assess the environmental risk of EPs

This activity is aimed at determining the toxicity and the bioaccumulation factors of some  prioritized EPs and TPs, as well as the chemicals present in the forest fire runoffs identified in previous activities. The activity is focused mainly in ecotoxicologial tests with zebrafish (Danio rerio) embryos that allow a rapid toxicity assessment with high sensitivity and replication capacity. This activity will also characterize the mode of action of selected EPs using biochemical and molecular tools. Thus, the toxicity of selected EPs and TPs will be determined and the compounds that pose a high risk will be identified.

Expected results:

  • Conducting bioaccumulation and ecotoxicological studies.
  • Assessing the toxicity of some prioritized EPs and identifying those that pose a high risk.
  • Studying the mode of action of selected EPs in order to improve the risk assessment of these compounds.
5. Environmental training and awareness activities and transference of knowledge and technology

Within the framework of the communication and dissemination actions of the project, the organization of environmental education, dissemination and awareness-raising actions is foreseen. To this end, an educational workbook on river and coastal pollution will be prepared and a program of litter collection will be carried out on the banks of river areas or on the coast. In addition, a program of ornithological tours will be launched to raise environmental awareness of pollution on beaches and rivers in estuarine areas. This includes the organization of exhibitions, awareness-raising days on microplastics, phytopharmaceuticals and other EPs, as well as the production of publications on natural heritage, the ecological value of ecosystems and their protection.

In addition, the knowledge, tools and technologies developed in NOR-WATER will be transferred to the different “end users” (administrative bodies, monitoring and control laboratories, companies, technology centers, etc.) that have the capacity to acquire and use this generated knowledge. To that end, a public-private partnership structure on the subject of emerging pollutants will be created. This structure will outlast the life of the project and will allow the exchange of knowledge, the identification of needs and priorities and the advance in the mitigation, control and detection capacities with regard to EPs and their impact on ecosystems and public health.

 Expected results:  

  • Creating and implementing a public-private partnership structure on the subject of emerging pollutants.
  • Organizing cross-border environmental education activities to promote awareness and sensitivity within society.