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December 2021



The new law on contaminated land in Poland raises a slight concern for landowners, who can now potentially bear responsibility for expensive clean-up programs. Thousands of sites do not meet Polish soil quality standards and will be subject to further assessment and, if necessary, purification. Traditional methods used in Poland consist in extracting and removing material for a landfill (where the same problem will arise in the future, entailing expenses for owners who will turn into waste producers). The costs of this approach are enormous, and for this reason, we are still dealing with many cases where pollution remains intact, which will be a problem in the future, especially in the case of land-use change.


One of the new solutions that have become commercially possible thanks to decades of research is phytoremediation. This solution involves using plants to absorb, bioaccumulate or transform contaminants without the need to dig up and remove large portions of the soil. The two main mechanisms are the hyperaccumulation of pollutants in many plant species and the transformation and volatilization of pollutants by plant leaves. Every month there are new studies based on the results of laboratory tests, field tests, and pilot repair projects. This approach has already been approved in Poland in accordance with the current regulations.


Many of the most common types of soil contamination can be solved with phytoremediation. In some cases, this process can also be improved by using microbes and soil additives. The list of successful projects includes places exposed to contamination by crude oil, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, explosive compounds, heavy metals, and many other compounds. Land clearing can take anywhere from two to more than ten years.

In the case of large contaminated sites, long-term treatment using phytoremediation may prove to be the only possible method of soil revitalization. Phytoremediation can also be combined with traditional excavations to clean up contamination areas where soil removal is less urgent and a risk assessment justifies possible revitalization in the long term. One noteworthy move by landowners would be to apply phytoremediation to industrial land before they finally try to sell it for other purposes. Last-minute corrective action is inevitably much more expensive.


We are currently working with a new team that will carry out feasibility studies, repair projects, and the process of implementing these projects in Europe. The concept is simple and cost-effective but requires very detailed professional assessments and implementation plans. Each location is characterized by its own specific conditions that must be taken into account before the project is considered feasible. The advantage is that the assessment and planning of remedial actions entail negligible costs compared to the potential cost of tackling pollution using traditional methods. Complete purification using phytoremediation usually generates only 10-15% of the cost of the traditional approach.

-Randy Mott,

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