» Pavlodar, Kazakhstan (Former Industrial Area)


Mercury pollution in Pavlodar is caused by an abandoned chloralkali plant. Whilst a lot of data has already been gathered to assess the risks, the mercury concentrations currently remaining in the groundwater, lake water, sediments and soils at the Pavlodar site are still an unsolved problem for which cost-effective remediation options must be found.

Abandoned electrolysis factory at Pavlodar
Abandoned electrolysis factory at Pavlodar

» Vlora, Albania (Hot Spot of Pollution)


Four miles north of Vlora in Albania is the site of a former chemical complex that produced chlorine alkali, vinyl chloride monomer and polyvinyl chloride. The plant was closed in 1992, and its buildings have been completely destroyed since that time. Families now live on and around the industrial site. The factory encompasses approximately one km2 and is located directly on the Adriatic Sea. A major environmental problem is posed by the destroyed former chlorine-alkali electrolysis plant. UNEP observed drops of metallic mercury in the hall of the electrolysis plant and in all of its drainage canals. A UNEP soil sample found mercury levels > 10,000 mg/kg in the area of the former plant. This level is 1,000 times greater than typical EU thresholds. Between the former plant and the Sea is an area formerly used for the disposal of the factory’s industrial wastes. It is likely to be highly polluted. The site was defined as a „hot spot of pollution“ by a recent UNEP investigation.

Former industrial area of Vlora, a hot spot of pollution (UNEP)
Former industrial area of Vlora, a hot spot of pollution (UNEP)

» Chloralkali Electrolysis Industry


The chloralkali electrolysis industry is the biggest user of mercury. 52 factories using the mercury cell process are present in Europe. Even if mercury cell processes are phased out in the European Community, they are still operating in Eastern Europe and worldwide. Air and water emission have to be reduced to European standards in candidate countries in an economically feasible way for the remaining operating time of 5 - 10 years.

Cell room of a mercury cell electrolysis factory
Cell room of a mercury cell electrolysis factory

» Coal Fired Power Plants and Municipal Waste Incinerators


Coal-fired power plants and municipal waste incinerators are the dominant sources of atmospheric mercury pollution world-wide. Emissions from combustion facilities depend on the chemical form of the mercury (Hg species) in the exhaust stream and the type of air pollution control equipment employed. Most mercury emitted from power plants is in the elemental form, which is difficult to control and is likely to enter the global atmospheric cycle. Oxidized mercury can be captured in scrubber liquids, from where it could potentially be removed using microbiological processes. The scope for the application of novel microbial bioremediation processes to liquid waste streams from combustion facilities will be investigated in the current project.

Coal fired power plant, one of the main sources of mercury pollution
Coal fired power plant, one of the main sources of mercury pollution

» Oil and Gas Industry


Mercury in oil and gas has recently been recognized as one of the major technological and ecological threats, in particular in some tectonic structures and young folded belts of gas-oil and gas deposits where mercury is present at very high concentrations. Gas and oil exploitation can therefore represent a significant source of mercury as a by-product. Moreover, during processing of fossil fuels, eg.in oil refineries, mercury contaminated byproducts occur and need to be cleaned or deposited safely.

Oil refinery
Oil refinery