Soil and groundwater quality has been steadily improving in the former Spree industrial area since the late 1990s. The aim of the reclamation measures is to prevent the spread of pollutants and protect the drinking water. "Due to their expertise in environmental analysis, the BAM has been a reliable partner in monitoring the reclamation success for 20 years", says BAM President Prof. Ulrich Panne.
The chemical industry, the pharmaceutical industry, metal processing, electrical engineering, vehicle and engine construction have all left their mark on Berlin. Pollutants in soil and groundwater in south-eastern Berlin bear witness to an industrial history that began in the 19th century. After many large companies of the former GDR had to close down in the course of German reunification, the Spree industrial area was defined as a ‘large scale ecological project’ to protect the Wuhlheide and Johannisthal waterworks. This means that the Federal Government and the State of Berlin have been jointly financing the reclamation of contaminated sites in the city’s largest contiguous industrial area.
Protection of drinking water is an important reclamation objective
The Spree industrial area lies in the Wuhlheide and Johannisthal waterworks catchment area, the main ecological goal of the rehabilitation concept is therefore to clean up the pollutant sources at their place of origin and prevent the spread of pollutants to protect the drinking water. Comprehensive groundwater monitoring has been used to control the reclamation progress for around 20 years involving various laboratories that test water samples. There is a wide range of pollutants in the soil and groundwater. The focus of the analyses is now on volatile organic hydrocarbons (VOC), aromatic hydrocarbons, pesticides and anilines. These substances can affect the taste and smell of drinking water and damage health when present in higher concentrations.
BAM ensures the quality of groundwater monitoring
Together with the Federal Institute for Unification-related Special Tasks, the Berlin Senate Department for the Environment commissioned BAM in 1998 with a major ecological project to develop and implement a concept for quality assuring laboratory analysis. "The extensive analysis results must be informative and comparable – no matter in which laboratory they were determined", explains Ute Dorgerloh from BAM’s Analytical Chemistry Department. This is the prerequisite for the Department for Environment’s groundwater monitoring to provide a sound basis for decisions on further steps in the reclamation project.
BAM scientists are developing methods for analysing water samples and producing quality control samples to ensure the high quality of data. They also conduct interlaboratory comparisons to ensure the comparability of different laboratories’ work.
Every year, BAM analyses about 50 to 60 water samples in its own laboratories, which corresponds to about 10 percent of the total number of samples. "We can check analysis results using various independent methods that are too time-consuming for routine analysis", explains Ute Dorgerloh. This is necessary when some investigation results are ambiguous for example, or if an independent body like BAM needs to confirm whether a test value has been complied with or exceeded.
It cannot yet be determined when the ecological reclamation of contaminated sites in the Spree industrial estate will be completed. The Berlin Department for the Environment assumes that measures to secure both waterworks will be necessary over a longer period of time.
As Berlin steadily grows, ‘land recycling’ will increasingly play a more important role in the construction of new housing on former industrial sites, as will the comprehensive removal of pollutants
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