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International Co-Operation Projects

GEMAS Project – geochemical mapping of soils in Europe

Gyozo Jordan: PROJECT LEADER, Hungary

The administration of EU legislation REACH requires reliable, harmonized information on soil quality at the European scale. The GEMAS project delivers comparable data on metals in agricultural and grazing land soil, in addition to soil properties known to influence the bioavailability and toxicity of metals. 2211 samples of agricultural soil (0-20 cm) and 2118 samples of grazing land soil (0-10 cm) were collected in 2008 at an average sample density of 1 site/2500 km2. The total area coveredis over 5 million km2. The analytical programme is extensive: >50 elements in an aqua regia extraction, >40 elements by XRF, CEC, TOC, Ctot, Stot, pHCaCl2, grain size, kD values for selected metals, MIR, Pb isotopes, Sr isotopes: always measured in one laboratory only. The aim is to produce one of the best harmonized and directly comparable datasets on soil quality and metals in soils that exists at the EU scale. GEMAS is a cooperation project between EuroGeoSurveys and Eurometaux.

LINK: GEMAS Field Sampling site photos in Google

United Nations Danube Basin Programme (ICPDR) – web-based geochemical maps for the Danube Basin


A novel web-based geochemical and contamination map series for the Danube Basin supporting contamination risk assessment and environmental communication has been developed. Is there an elevated regional contamination present where our children play and families live? To answer these questions you need a harmonized pan-European geochemical map showing the spatial distribution of toxic elements such as arsenic, lead, zinc or cadmium. Such maps require high standard scientific knowledge and the widest international co-operation. This is now delivered for the Danube Basin through International Commission for the Protection of River Danube (ICPDR) Programme from the Geochemical Expert Group (Association of European Geological Surveys; EuroGeoSurvey) for Danube Basin citizens, decision makers, experts and scientists. Click on the web page, wonder around in Danube landscapes and find pristine lands and areas of concern for possible contamination! Web page:

Geochemical maps in the web page feature the Water Framework Directive Priority Substances: Cd, Hg, Ni and Pb. In addition, geochemical maps are available for the additional ICPDR Danube Basin Priority Substances As, Cr, Cu and Zn. The web page shows geochemical maps for the Danube Basin produced by European geological surveys from two data sources. The low-density, multi-media (stream water, stream sediment, floodplain sediment, topsoil, subsoil), multi-element Geochemical Atlas of Europe, and high-density, single-media, multi-element National Geochemical Maps. The advantage of the European Atlas is that it is fully harmonised for sampling, laboratory analysis, quality control, and data processing methods are the same for all the participating Danube Basin countries. A further advantage is that several environmental media is covered including stream water and floodplain sediments. Its disadvantage is its low sampling density (1 sample per 5,000 square km) and significant part of the DanubeBasin is not covered. The advantage of the National Maps is the higher sampling density (1 sample per 500 square km, on average). Their disadvantage however is the lack of harmonisation, therefore these maps cannot be compared across country borders due to differences of sampling media and to various sampling and laboratory analysis methods used. Also, some Danube countries lack national geochemical maps.

The EuroGeoSurveys Geochemical Atlas is publically available. The National Geochemical Maps publication policy varies among the countries therefore the interested user shall contact the relevant national geological survey for the original maps and data (click at ‘national contact’ in the web page).

Bottled water chemistry – geochemical mapping of groundwater quality in Europe

Gyozo Jordan: PROJECT LEADER, Hungary

Bottled water (more than 1900 brands are currently registered in Europe) is rapidly developing into a major source of drinking water for a significant proportion of the population in many parts of the continent. The authors present the chemical composition of 1785 bottled water samples from 38 European countries (1247 different sources at 848 locations) purchased by a network of geochemists in supermarkets during 2008. Subsequent analysis in a single laboratory (c. 70 elements by ICP-MS, ICP-OES, IC and pH, alkalinity, etc.), has produced a harmonized data set, previously unavailable at this level of completeness, quality and spatial coverage. Bottled water can be considered as a proxy for groundwater composition. The bottled water data set is thus used to provide a first impression of variability and the regional distribution of groundwater chemistry at a continental scale. The maps allow the reader to identify the influence of geology on water composition.

In the framework of the project carried out by the EuroGeoSurveys Geochemistry Expert Group 36 bottled waters were obtained from public markets in Hungary in order to determine their hydrogeochemical composition. The objective of this study is to investigate the possible relationship between groundwater aquifer lithology and the processed and marketed bottled waters, and to develop a classification of bottled waters, based on their dissolved mineral content. Results show that, while processing of original groundwater, such as oxygen addition, iron or hydrogen-sulphide removal can significantly alter water composition, bottled water composition can be used for selection of sites for detailed hydrogeochemical and hydrogeological characterization. A simple and useful classification of bottled water quality is also presented that is based on natural groups of sampled waters derived by means of statistical data analysis methods.

URGE Project – urban geochemistry in Europe

Gyozo Jordan: PROJECT LEADER, Hungary

Eighty per cent of the European population lives in cites. Except for localities with polluted ground, there is very little focus on the overall soil contamination from diffuse sources. In many cities, urban soils have received pollutants for centuries. Generally, the soils in the oldest parts of the cities are typically contaminated with metals (especially Pb) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). Surface soils in the younger suburban parts of the cities normally show lower concentrations of metals and PAH. Empirical evaluations have demonstrated a strong association between the amount of Pb in soil and children’s Pb exposure (Pb in blood). Serious health effects have been documented in humans. In a Norwegian study of soil pollution in 1735 child-care centres remediation due to soil pollution were needed in 535 (31 per cent). In this project harmonized sampling and analytical methods are used to obtain directly comparable values for soil contaminants in the urban environment at the European (continental) scale. The chemical data obtain is use to delineate areas where soil contamination levels exceed health risk levels. The main aims of the project are:

  • to map the geographical distribution of heavy metals and organic pollutants in surface soils in the populated part of the cities,
  • to identify the main pollution sources and
  • in cooperation with national or local health authorities to determine the risk for human health especially for children

Two sub-projects are implemented in the Ajka test area, Hungary:

1 Attic dust geochemical survey

Attic dust sampling was applied to determine the long-term airborne contamination load in the industrial town of Ajka, Hungary.  In addition to aluminium and alumina industry, coal mining, coal fired power plant and glass industry sites have generated numerous waste heaps to act as multi-contamination sources in Ajka. The major objective of this research was to study and map the spatial distribution of heavy metal contamination in airborne attic dust samples.  At 27 sampling sites 30 attic dust samples were collected, including the collection of background samples.  Sampling strategy followed a grid-based stratified random sampling design.

The project area covers an 8×8 grid of 1×1 km cells with a total area of 64 km2.  In order to represent long-term industrial pollution, houses with attics kept intact for at least 30-40 years were chosen for sampling. The concentration of the major and trace elements were measured with ICP-OES and the mercury content was measured with atomic absorption spectrometry.  The As, Cu, Hg, Pb and Zn concentrations vary between 6.5-29.3 ppm, 14.1-128 ppm, 0.1-1.8 ppm, 42.5-881 ppm and 90.2-954 ppm, respectively.  Results show a good spatial correlation of contamination and sources, and spatial trends are also revealed.  Attic dust seems to be an efficient and cheep sampling medium to study long-term airborne contamination and possibly associated human health risk in an industrial area.

This project is developed by a PhD student at the ELTEUniversity.

Sampling protocol and field sheet is available at Downloads.

2 Urban soil geochemical survey

Forty-six soil samples have been collected at 44 locations in Ajka, which has been one of the most industrialized cities in Hungary in the past with multiple contamination sources of glass industry, heavy alumina industry and coal-based power plants supplied by the nearby bauxite mines and coal mines. The samples were collected from the surface layer of the soils, at depth of 0-10 cm along a 1×1 km grid following EuroGeoSurveys international standards. The whole grid covers an area of 48 km2. In each grid cell a sampling site was selected at playgrounds, parks and other communal areas. Samples were dried at 40 ºC before laboratory analyses. Sample preparation also includes thorough homogenization and sieving. Grain size distribution and loss on ignition (LOI) were also determined. Samples were analysed with ICP-OES method after the aqua regia extraction to quantify the trace element content (As, Pb, Ni, Cu, Zn, Cd, Hg, etc.) of the soils.

This project is developed by a PhD student at the ELTEUniversity.

Sampling protocol and field sheet is available at Downloads.