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Contaminated Sediments Turned Into Safe Construction Materials

polluted water

Chances are, you live near a body of water polluted by carcinogenic chemicals (if you don’t think you do, this list of polluted rivers from the Environmental Working Group might change your mind). But what if all the contaminated sediment lingering in, say, the Mississippi River, could be used for good? STABCON, a consortium of Swedish and Norwegian companies and researchers, have figured out a way to turn all that lead and mercury-polluted soil into a concrete-like substance that can be used for construction.

After extensive testing at Oxelösund, a Swedish port, the STABCON team discovered that dredged-up soft sediment strengthened with cement and Merit 5000 (a product used in steel-making), hardened into a safe material that could be used as a building block. ScienceDaily claims that the material is both durable and safe–after building a new harbor with the material at Oxelösund, researchers found that chemicals didn’t leak into surrounding waters.

So far, STABCON only has plans to use the new process in Sweden, with multiple local ports interested in seeing their contaminated sediments dredged up. Soon, though, STABCON will extend its research throughout the entire Baltic Sea region.

And after that? If STABCON can prove that its concrete-like substance doesn’t degrade over the years and start leaking toxic materials back into the water, ports everywhere might consider turning their dirty soil into construction projects.

Follow Fast Company on Twitter. Ariel Schwartz can be reached by email.

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