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Sullied Sediments: Sediment Assessment and Clean Up Pilots in Inland Waterways in the North Sea Region 

The Waterways Partnership and East Riding of Yorkshire Council were involved in this major European-funded project, which has developed ways to better assess and treat some of the pollutants found in the sediment in our waterways and help prevent them from entering the water system in the first place. 

Many of the inland waterways in Europe are under threat due to the introduction of Watch List chemicals that are not currently regulated under the European Water Framework Directive. These chemicals are introduced into our waterways as a result of our day-to-day activities and through industry and many have been shown to be harmful to wildlife. Regardless of the source, they accumulate in the sediments in our rivers and canals.

Water regulators and managing authorities do not always know the levels, the locations or the impacts of these pollutants. Nor do they have the tools to assess sediments confidently and make informed environmental management decisions. An interdisciplinary partnership of scientific experts, regulators and water managers, led by the University of Hull, has developed and tested new tools to better assess, treat and prevent contamination from these chemicals. This work was carried out at selected sites in the Rivers Elbe, Humber and Scheldt catchments.

The aim of the Sullied Sediments’ project was to help regulators and water managers make better decisions with regard to the management, removal and disposal of sediments, thereby reducing economic costs to private and public sector organisations and the impact of these pollutants on the environment.

The partnership also sought to reduce a number of chemicals entering the water system by raising awareness about what we, as consumers, are releasing into the environment through the use of common drugs and household products. This included the involvement of volunteers in the citizen science sampling initiative, called RiverDip, across the North Sea region and beyond.

‘Sullied Sediments’ was co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Interreg VB North Sea Region Programme with a grant of 2.043.413 €, which was matched by the partners involved. The project partnership included public, private and third sector organisations based in the United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Below is a list of the organisations and institutions who were involved in this project:

Project Beneficiaries (partners with budgets)

  • Canal and River Trust (UK)
  • Ecossa (Germany)
  • East Riding of Yorkshire Council (UK)
  • Environmental Scientifics Group (UK)
  • Hamburg Port Authority (Germany)
  • Hamburg University of Applied Sciences (Germany)
  • Institut Dr Nowak (private laboratory) (Germany)
  • OVAM ((Public Waste Agency of Flanders) (Belgium)
  • Radboud University (The Netherlands)
  • University of Antwerp (Belgium)
  • University of Hull (UK)
  • University of Leeds (UK)
  • VMM (Flanders Environment Agency) (Belgium)

Advisory Group

All project beneficiaries (above) and the following strategic partners (no budgets):

  • East and North Yorkshire Waterways Partnership (UK)
  • Elbe Habitat Foundation (Germany)
  • Environment Agency (UK)
  • Federal Institute of Hydrology (Germany)
  • Foundation for Applied Water Research (STOWA)
  • Hamburg Ministry of the Environment and Energy (Germany)
  • Northumbrian Water (UK)
  • River Hull Board (UK)
  • Sediment European Network Steering Group (European)
  • Thames Water (UK)
  • Vlakwa (water research consultancy) (Belgium)
  • Yorkshire Water (UK)

More information about this project can be found on its web space:

Sullied Sediments web space (external website)

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Sullied Sediments Logo
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Explainer Video, screen capture
Award-winning Sullied Sediments explainer video
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Sullied Sediments Project Partnership
Sullied Sediments Project Partnership
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Taking samples from the Elbe (courtesy of Hamburg Port Authority)
Taking samples from the Elbe (courtesy of Hamburg Port Authority)