ECO-SOS: Development of Emerging Contaminants – Hybrid Soft Sensor for on-line monitoring of contaminants of emerging concern in water

This EU-funded project will develop real-time control and monitoring systems as well as a novel, cost-effective, easy to use surveillance system to optimise the removal of emerging water contaminants.

01-Jun-2021 - 31-May-2023
Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) Individual Fellowships
About the project

The water resources and especially the drinking water in Europe and globally face new challenges with the emerging micropollutants, originating from pharmaceuticals, personal care products, plastics, flame retardants, pesticides etc. Even though they present in extremely low concentrations and do not exhibit acute toxicity to living organisms or environment, the long-term effects are uncertain. The water and wastewater treatment plants do not fully remove or eliminate them; so, they accumulate in the water resources leading to higher concentrations increasing the health and environmental risks. 

Emerging contaminants: what are they? (Drawings by Agnieszka Cuprys)
Emerging contaminants: what are they? (Drawings by Agnieszka Cuprys)

The current analytical and monitoring systems of detection of emerging contaminants at low concentration are expensive, time-consuming and usually complicated. Current studies have only reported the fate of these substances during various treatment processes but not on how to optimise them to maximise removal.

Emerging contaminants: detection (Drawings by Agnieszka Cuprys)
Emerging contaminants: detection (Drawings by Agnieszka Cuprys)

To solve this problem, we would like to combine our experience in the development of real-time control and monitoring systems with knowledge of the analysis and removal of emerging contaminants during treatment processes. How? By creating a soft sensors! They are also called virtual sensors or surrogate sensors. It is a smart estimation method of difficult and expensive parameters via cheap and widely available physical online sensors. Powerful statistical tools, artificial intelligence and machine learning concepts have proven to establish algorithms discovering hidden correlations among the two types of parameters. The hypothesis of this research project is that it will be possible for soft sensors to detect emerging contaminants in water. It is a challenging task, mainly due to unknown chemistry of emerging contaminants, cocktail effects of emerging contaminants, and limited knowledge of the exact composition of water (unknown compounds).

ECO-SOS (Drawings by Agnieszka Cuprys)
ECO-SOS (Drawings by Agnieszka Cuprys)
Goals and outputs

The global objective is to develop novel, cost-effective and simple-to-use surveillance system that would also enable the optimising of the removal of contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) in water.

The goals of this project are:

  •  to help to meet the aims of monitoring of emerging contaminants and assuring compliance of wastewater treatment plants with the new treatment requirements,
  •  to impact in the area of water quality monitoring, specifically in the sub-area of on-line monitoring techniques,
  •  to solve the needs of controlling concentration of emerging contaminants in surface water, assuring safety of reclaimed water in the Circular Economy and securing safety of drinking water.

Main outputs of the project will be:

  1. Database of comparative analysis of CECs applying various target, non-target and assay-based techniques;
  2. Multivariate statistical models forming the basis of CECs software sensors;
  3. CEC Early Warning system based on fusion of software and simple-physical sensors;
  4. System of real-time control of CEC at water and wastewater treatment plants.
ECO-SOS Outcome (Drawings by Agnieszka Cuprys)
ECO-SOS Outcome (Drawings by Agnieszka Cuprys)


Harsha Ratnaweera
Project manager
Agnieszka Katarzyna Cuprys
MSCA Postdoctoral Fellow
Zakhar Maletskyi
Associate Professor