NICOLE mercury booklet 2015 – Special edition

Dear Reader,

Mercury (Hg) is listed as a priority hazardous substance and is being subjected to phase-out. Recent legislative texts and government policies restrict the industrial use of Hg in Europe, ban the export of metallic Hg outside of the EU, require safe storage of metallic Hg and will undoubtedly lead to the closure and redevelopment of some industrial operations using Hg.

The European Commission’s updated Best Available Techniques Reference Document (BREF) for the chlor-alkali industry, published in December 2013, states that Hg cells are no longer considered as Best Available Technology (BAT). Consequently, Hg cell technology can no longer be used in EU-based chlor-alkali sites permitted under the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) beyond 11th December 2017.

Most of the affected facilities will need to be investigated and management measures may subsequently be required. This concerns not only chlor-alkali plants using the Hg cell process, which are the majority industrial user of Hg in Europe, but also other industrial activities, such as chemical production using Hg catalysts, wood impregnation, precious metals recovery, oil and gas production, and the manufacture and/or recycling of batteries, thermometers and electrical switches.

The NICOLE Mercury Working Group has had four major objectives since its creation in 2011:

  • Platform for information exchange between practitioners and problem owners on technical topics (characterization, risk assessment, risk mitigation technologies, waste management…)
  • Monitor international research and technical initiatives on mercury contaminated sites and participate if judged opportune
  • Promote and advocate a risk-based approach to the management of Hg-impacted sites
  • Monitor legislative evolution and implementation

The Working Group was chaired by Roger Jaquet (Solvay, Belgium).

The booklet

This technical booklet has been prepared on behalf of the NICOLE Mercury Working Group to share case studies and best practice related to the characterisation and management of industrial sites impacted by Mercury (Hg). NICOLE was formed in February 1996 for the stimulation, dissemination and exchange of knowledge regarding industrially contaminated land. Its 100 members from 20 European countries come from industry, trade organizations, service providers, technology developers, universities, independent research organizations and governmental organizations. More information about NICOLE can be found at

Prepared by: Oliver Phipps, Jennifer Barrett, Paul Hesketh, Richard Brown (ERM), with valuable contributions from Roger Jacquet (Solvay, Chair of the NICOLE Mercury Working Group); Stany Pensaert (DEC – DEME Environmental Contractors, nv); Christian Stiels (ECON Industries); Rhys Davis, Christine Mardle, Chris Taylor-King and Martin Holmes (EnGlobe-Celtic); Dimitri Vlassopoulos (Anchor QEA, LLC); and many other Industrial Members and Service Providers who preferred not to be cited.

Table of Content

1 Introduction & Regulatory Context 3
2 Mercury Properties and Influence on Fate & Transport 7
3 Techniques and Considerations for Risk Assessment 13
4 Site Characterisation Techniques 17
5 Site Management Techniques 27
5.1 Soil Excavation and Off-site Disposal 28
5.2 Soil Washing 32
5.3 Stabilisation / Solidification 35
5.4 Thermal Treatment 43
5.5 Other Soil Treatment Technologies Under Development 52
5.6 Techniques To Address Groundwater 53
5.7 Other Groundwater Treatment Technologies Under Development 56
6 Best Practice Recommendations 59

Download the Brochure – please login your NICOLE account FIRST!

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