ModelPROBE Sites

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modelPROBE sites

The ModelPROBE project provides a platform of several fully equipped contaminated European reference sites for operation and field site assessment of all proposed techniques. Conclusive relations of the techniques to each other and integrated modelling will provide a maximum of outcome of this project. This approach goes far beyond the state of the art and has never been applied before. Due to the specific properties of these sites, the full spectrum of contaminations and nearly all options for application of the proposed methods are given. The sites enable also procedures for DNAPL source zone identification and quantification of its transport and fate will be developed. In addition, even the monitoring of Monitored Natural Attenuation (MNA) measures will be performed at some of these sites.

The following European reference sites are considered which are well characterized and are sites equipped with a certain amount of wells and infrastructure:

Zeitz, Germany

The area of the former hydrogenation plant which operates since 1938 is located within the catchment area of the river ‘‘Weiße Elster’’, 40 km Southwest of Leipzig, Germany, within an area of approx. 240 km2 influenced by open-pit lignite mining. More than 770.000 tons of benzene were produced at that site and groundwater contamination up to 1.000 mg per litre were found (Schirmer et al. 2004). Caused by the fact that a remediation action is at present in progress, this site will be the site for the majority of the common activities in ModelPROBE. The site is at present a German large ecological project and is under the surveillance of the LAF federal authority which part of the ModelPROBE project.

Trecate, Italy

Trecate: Blow out of oil well

A crude oil–contaminated site in Trecate, Piemonte, Northern Italy. In 1994 the site was the scene of an inland crude oil spill following an oil well blowout. Details of the incident, which resulted in approximately 15000 m3 of middleweight crude oil being released at the soil surface and contaminating soil, vadose zone and groundwater, were reported by Cassiani et al. (2004). This site has been well characterised in terms of distribution of crude oil contamination in the subsurface and is one of the sites with the most comprehensive data base on geophysical methods. Routine surveys for existing contamination in soil, subsoil and groundwater are conducted routinely until now by BMI on behalf of Eni SpA, the oil company responsible for the accident in 1994, and under the supervision of the regional environment Agency (ARPA Piemonte). ARPA will act as an end user to the project, while former BMI Geneva employees are now subcontractors in the project in order to retain the developed expertise.

Rho, Italy

A former chemical facility located in Rho (Milano, Italy), mainly involved in the production of synthetic dyes, is the source of a chlorinated solvent plume (e.g. up to 180 mg/l trichloroethene and 50 mg/l 1,1,2,2-tetrachloroethane) that extends over approximately 0.4 km2. The plume possibly originated from the leakage of a “storage basin” where exhausted chlorinated solvents were discharged during at least 50 years of industrial activity (Aulenta et al., 2005).

SAP, Czech Republic

The North Bohemia Carcass Disposal Plant SAP is located in the northern part of the Czech Republic near Liberec. Frequent operational spills caused a large contamination plume and the total amount of leaked PCE was estimated to 150-250 t. The highest GW concentrations measured before the on site remediation started was 230, 14 and 72 mg/L of PCE, TCE and c-DCE, respectively. The site is vegetated with decidous and coniferous trees with an age up to 80 years (Machackova, 2005) and will be the reference site for the “tree” related methods.

Moeringa site, Norway

In addition, a heavy metal contaminated site in a different climate is considered for the project. The Moeringa site, Norway (at Horten near Oslo), was operated from before 1800 to 1993 as a deposit (3.75 ha area) and has received waste oil, oil distillery waste, several types of sludges, sandblast and building residues, originating from ship yards, oil recycling, ship and aircraft maintenance, and lead battery production. A layer of about 3 m fill is contaminated with As, Cd, Cr, Cu, Hg, Ni, Pb, Zn, Oil, PAH, and PCB. This site is of specific interest for analyzing heavy metal core contaminations, buried structures, and 3D heterogeneity. Fortunately, this site was covered with 15 years old a natural vegetation including trees which enables to follow the tree approach also on a heavy metal site. This site was chosen after contacting the SoilCAM project coordinator Helen French and will be a first basis to collaborate with the SoilCAM project.


The principal sites for the application of both surface and borehole (DP-driven) geophysical investigation methods are Zeitz, Trecate and Rho (WPs 1, 2, 5). Optionally, the SAP site could be included in this part of the investigation. The microbiological tools (WP 6) and the chemical/biological assessment tools (WP 7) will be applied preferentially on the Zeitz, Bitterfeld, Leuna and Rho sites. Tree montoring approaches (WP 4) will be applied at the SAP and Zeitz sites. The investigation approach suitable for the Moeringa site will be evaluated within the first year.

Additional sites for evaluation of specific purposes:

Bitterfeld, Germany

Bitterfeld: Industrial zone

One of the most heavily contaminates site in Middle Europe is located near the city of Bitterfeld in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. More than 400 different compounds were found in the contaminated groundwater and the estimated are of contamination is ~ 4 km2 with a contamination depth up 70 m. Due to the 150-year history of the chemical industry at the site, the time of spillage is not exactly known but chlorobenzenes have been produced at the industrial site since the first half of the last century and are the major contaminants at the site (Heidrich et al., 2004). Due to its complexity, this site will be the “standby” for specific issues to be addressed in the project.

Leuna, Germany

Leuna "Compartment Transfer"

Leuna is a former refinery site near Merseburg in eastern Germany. It has been a centre of chemical production for about 100 years. During the production period, large quantities of MTBE-containing gasoline were released to the subsurface. As a result, the subsurface at the site is contaminated with free-phase mineral oil (NAPL). From the free-phase oil, different gasoline components, particularly BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene isomers, ~ 300 mg/l) and MTBE (~ 140 mg/l) are dissolving into the groundwater. (Martienssen et al. 2006).


Project handbook now published

"Model-driven soil probing, site assessment and evaluation - Guidance on Technologies"

 Available upon request at:




Matthias Kästner

Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ, Leipzig, Germany