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4th general meeting have taken place in Gran Canaria with the presence of all MONITOOL partners. They have reviewed and discussed the results from sampling campaigns in all regions, and have agreed next steps under the project´s Scientific Advisory Board recommendations.

During May 23rd and 24th, Instituto Tecnológico de Canarias (ITC) hosted, in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, this 3rd MONITOOL progress meeting (4th general meeting between partners) who was attended by members of the eight European institutions involved in MONITOOL consortium. It was time to discuss all the results obtained in the sampling campaigns in each region and check the results of the interlaboratory DGT exercise led by IFREMER, actions both framed in Work Package 5 (Field campaigns and analysis).

In addition to seawater spot samples, more than 250 DGTs devices (Diffusive Gradients in Thin films) have been deployed and analysed in the project area, giving a representative picture regarding the presence of heavy metals in the European Atlantic Coast and estuaries. UNICA, from Sardinia, Italy, has also deployed DGTs on the island, completing this European image with results from the Mediterranean Sea.

Progress of Work Package 4 (Database Management and correlation studies) and 6 (Adaptation and Chemical Status Assessment) were also presented in order to review their status and update the strategies to reach the aims of these activities.

Meeting socios Las PalmasTwo successful days on which the partners could present all the work done during last two years of establishing procedures, sampling and analysis, and discuss results with the assistance of Hao Zhang and Gary Fones, members of Scientific Advisory Board, who gave recommendations to continue exploring ways “to exploit” the results and developing a plan of scientific publications.

Lastly, the attendees considered the possibility of extending this working consortium   beyond MONITOOL context, presenting a new project to the upcoming European calls.

The partners will face a new meeting again in February 2020, in Nantes (France) by the host partner IFREMER.

Canary Islands have hosted two technical conferences with the aim of presenting the MONITOOL project and disseminating the use of the most commonly used passive sampling techniques to evaluate chemical status of waters.

Vanessa Millán (ITC), Jean-Luis Gonzalez (IFREMER) and M. Jesús Belzunce (AZTI) explained to the attendees the main lines of the project, the advantages of passive sampling methods and how DGT sampling has been used in MONITOOL campaigns as well as in other previous case studies.

DGTs (Diffusive Gradients in Thin Films) were presented in depth to the participants as the passive sampling device used in MONITOOL, and the advantages that could have over other current methods to control heavy metal levels for coastal and transitional waters in the compliance of the Water Framework Directive (WFD). Jornadas tecnicas en TenerifeOver 250 DGTs have been deployed during the project along the European Atlantic coast, from Canary Islands to Scottish Highlands.

Conferences took place in the two main headquarters of Instituto Tecnológico de Canarias (ITC); first day, 22nd May, in Tenerife, and the day after in Gran Canaria. They were attended, among others, by representatives of government agencies, universities, environmental consultants, research centres, students, laboratories and other professionals in the sector. This event was the beginning of an important week for MONITOOL in the Canary Islands, just before celebrating the 4th project progress meeting on 23rd and 24th of May in Gran Canaria with all partners´ representation.

Thi Bolam, who leads work package 5 (Field sampling and analysis) of the Interreg funded MONITOOL project, is a marine chemist with over 18-year experience working on trace metal and organotin levels in the marine environment and she is currently based at the Cefas Lowestoft laboratory. 

  1. What is the purpose of Work Package 5?

Work Package 5 deals with the methods that are applied for field sample collection and for laboratory sample processing and analysis.  Partners employ the same processes according to a common strategy for sampling and analysis agreed in consortium. The aim of this common strategy is to avoid operational variability in field and in laboratory works in order to obtain comparable metal concentrations data to be used for correlation studies carried out under Work Package 4.

CEFAS, as leading partner of WP5, ensures that protocols are developed in consensus, and also that sampling campaigns are done accordingly to the timeframe and methodology established by all Partners.

  1. The EU coastline and estuarine waterways are vast, how were the various sampling sites selected?

Sampling sites are selected in such manner to have representativeness of the whole Atlantic region; samples from the Mediterranean area are also collected to gain European consistency for further EQS adaptation (under WP6).

Each participating partner ideally targets four sampling sites with different features, characteristics and contamination levels in each Partner region. The selection of the sites must take into account the level of pollution present (particularly for Cd, Ni and Pb) at those sites to obtain a representative sampling area displaying concentrations from pristine sites to contaminated sites.

  1. With such a large number of partners and samples, how is variability in sampling and laboratory analyses minimised?

One of WP5 objectives is to develop standardised protocols for field samples collection and sample processing and analysis that must be followed by all Partners. The protocols define series of guidelines that will guaranty the comparability and reproducibility of data obtained from in each Partner region.

Field sampling guidelines include details on sampling sites selection, the choice of passive sampler (Diffusive in Thin Film Gradient, DGT), DGT deployment and retrieval stages, spot sampling frequency, in situ parameters, vials and containers type, material acid wash process, samples delivery to expert lab, etc. On the other hand, processing and analysis protocol focuses on the analytical methods used by all Partners or by a designated expert Partner laboratory, e.g. the analysis of Suspended Particulate Matter in seawater, trace metals analysis in seawater by Seafast-ICP-MS/Voltammetry or metals analysis in DGT by ICP-MS. Additionally, visual supports such as short videos were produced to demonstrate passive sampler deployments.

To further minimise variability, all Partner acquire the DGTs from a single source (DGT Research Ltd, UK) and we ensure that the DGTs are manufactured from a single batch for each sampling campaign.

Finally, in order to reduce inter-laboratory operational variations, a designated Partner is responsible for one type of sample processing/analysis: Cefas is responsible for the filtration of all seawater samples that are subsequently sent to IPMA who carries out the analysis of trace metals analysis by ICP-MS, whereas IST is in charge of the analysis of trace metals in seawater by voltammetry and IFREMER the analysis of trace metals in DGT by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS.)

  1. What do the sampling campaigns entail and what are the potential challenges/risks and how do you mitigate those risks?

Each Partner conducted two main sampling campaigns: they took place during the wet and dry season, respectively during January-March 2018 and July-September 2018. Each sampling campaign consisted of the co-deployment of DGT and spot water sampling along the Atlantic Region and in additional sites in the Mediterranean area at both estuarine and coastal sites.

The DGTs were deployed over a “nominal” period of 5 days where spot samples were collected each day during the deployment period at low/high tide at estuarine sites or every other day at coastal sites, wherever it was practicable to do so.

Potential challenges during the sampling campaigns include the passive samplers being damaged (if in contact with the sharp edge of any solid structure due to the current flow while being deployed), being eaten by fish or in a worse case, lost or vandalised. To mitigate these potential issues, the DGTs are secured in a solid plastic frame, which in turn are wrapped around by a net. This inventive approach protects the DGTs from being in direct contact with any sharp surrounding as well as deterring the fish from trying to make the DGTs gels as food.

Vandalism can be a potential risk during the deployment, therefore sites were chosen as such that DGTs deployment locations are away from the public curiosity (?) as practicable, and wherever possible, in a secure and safe area where access is restricted (or banned from the public).

Finally, the weather can play a major role during the sampling campaign. Flexible planning is required in case weather forecast hinders the deployment or collection of the samplers, or associated spot sampling from being effective (i.e. bad weather causing access to the sampling site difficult or impossible (icy, snowy conditions) and therefore resulting in spot sampling less frequent than anticipated).       

  1. Can you elaborate the Inter-laboratory study that sits within Work Package 5?

The Inter-laboratory study aims to develop and validate a network of DGT expert labs across the Atlantic region with the capacity to analyse DGTs deployed in coastal and transitional waters and to determine if DGT-EQS are suitable for metals.

IFREMER leads this exercise by deploying sufficient DGTs at a single chosen site over a pre-determined period. Various DGT-sample types (blank DGTs, deployed DGTs, dry resins, eluted resins) are dispatched to participating partners to be analysed in their respective laboratory. The data will be submitted using a template produced by IFREMER for consistency and the results will be processed and analysed by IFREMER once all data are collated. The aim of this cross-checking exercise is to increase the capacity for DGT analysis across all participating territories and partner laboratories ability to accurately analyse deployed DGTs.

Meeting AZTI IIIITC will organize 2 technical conferences in the days preceding the next partners´ meeting in Canary Islands

Next partners´ meeting of MONITOOL Project will take place in Gran Canaria on May 2019 hosted by ITC. Additionally, the event is the opportunity to celebrate two technical conferences, one in each province, Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Las Palmas.

The aim of these two events is to present the MONITOOL project to the attendees, as well as to disseminate the use of most commonly used passive sampling techniques to evaluate chemical status of waters, both for metals and for organic pollutants. Next, the DGTs (Diffusive Gradients in Thin Films) will be presented in depth, as the passive sampling device used in MONITOOL project.

The conference will have the participation of Jean-Luis Gonzalez, researcher from IFREMER since 1991 in the field of the coastal environment; M. Jesus Belzunce, researcher from AZTI since 1998 in the field of marine environment (particularly in ports, estuaries and coasts); and Vanessa Millán, researcher in Water Department at ITC.

The first edition of these technical conferences will take place on May 21st in the headquarters of ITC in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Gran Canaria will host the second edition next day (May 22nd), in the headquarters of ITC in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. Two opportunities for MONITOOL to continue spreading the acquired knowledge during the project tasks, in addition to share the results of the DGTs deployed on sampling campaigns last year.

Target audience comprises government agencies, person responsible for Water Framework Directive compliance, researchers, laboratories, environmental consulting companies, university students and other professionals and business related.

After that, on 23rd and 24th of May, the 4th partners meeting will be celebrated in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria with presence of the associated partners and the MONITOOL scientific advisory board.

More info about the event here.

UNICA promotes the application of the MONITOOL approach for other organic compounds

Currently, regulatory chemical monitoring, to comply with the requirements of European Directives (i.e. the Water Framework Directive (WFD)), relies on the collection of spot water samples and the comparison of contaminant concentrations with the existing Environmental Quality Standards (EQSs). However, this approach presents several limitations.

Thus, passive samplers have been suggested as an alternative to spot sampling for obtaining high quality data in dynamic systems. However, the main factor hindering the use of passive samplers for regulatory monitoring is the lack of specific EQSs that could be used for the environmental assessment of water bodies.

Hence, the main aim of the MONITOOL project is to adapt existing dissolved metal-EQSs for passive samplers (i.e. Diffusive Gradients in Thin-films (DGTs). In this sense, the University of Cagliari (UNICA) has carried out two sampling campaigns, in winter and summer, at four stations in the Harbour of Cagliari. This consisted in the deployment of DGT passive samplers for 5 days and the simultaneous collection of spot water samples during this period.  The data gathered in these campaigns, together with that obtained by the other Partners, will be used for obtaining DGT-EQSs.

Additionally, one of the future outputs of MONITOOL is to promote the future application of the approach used in this project to other organic compounds. Thus, UNICA complements MONITOOL project with the high-frequency monitoring of the Harbour of Cagliari by means of SR (Silicon Rubber) and POCIS (Polar Organic Chemical Integrative Sampler) passive samplers, for the measurement of legacy organic pollutants (PAHs, PCBs, PBDEs, pesticides) and emerging substances (steroid hormones, pharmaceuticals, UV-filters, fragrances). The MONITOOL project will ultimately capitalize from these findings.

Due to the privileged position of UNICA in the Mediterranean, they will actively pursue the dissemination of the MONITOOL project outputs beyond the Atlantic Region. Besides, their expertise in the field of passive samplers for organic contaminants will encourage, in the framework of future projects, the adaptation of existing EQSs for these compounds.