Dr. Uri Stoin of Alpha Cleantec AG, Switzerland describes how one in-situ holistic solution worked for three challenges of railway maintenance

Railway tracks, roads, and other infrastructures mustbe vegetation-free to comply with safety and operational requirements. Several well-known methods to prevent and treat vegetation include biological, mechanical, and electro-thermal processes. The standard market solution to prevent and treat vegetation on railway tracks is the use of soil herbicides and leaf herbicides.

For decades, glyphosate-based materials such as Roundup and Dominator Ultra have been the most efficient and cost-effective solutions. These methods are rapid, efficient, cost-effective, and straightforward to use. However, due to their environmental and health impacts as well as the resistance of part of the plants, it was recently decided to stop using Glyphosate-based materials in EU countries.

In December 2022, The European Commission extended the current approval for the herbicide Glyphosate by a year until 15 December 2023. This decision was made official through EU Regulation 2022/2364, which amends the approval period for the Glyphosate active ingredient. The amendment has been made to Regulation 540/2011, which deals with the list of Active Ingredient Substances (AIS) approved in the EU. However, it is clear that times for common aggressive and environment damaging use of Glyphosate-based materials are coming to an end. New environmentally friendly, safe, rapid to implement, efficient and cost-effective non-Glyphosate herbicides that can be applied with the existing spaying equipment are in great need.

In addition, decades of aggressive application of Glyphosate-based materials have generated a new persistent environmentally damaging contamination of subsoil and groundwater with Glyphosate leftovers. EGEIS summarized groundwater monitoring on over 8.900 European locations between 1993 and 2009 and found a percentage of samples above the maximum concentration permitted in drinking water (0.1μg/liter) in several EU countries such as Germany, Denmark, Norway, France and Hungary. For example, in France, Glyphosate accounted for 2.9 per cent of all samples exceeding the concentration limit in raw water sources used for the production of drinking water (2000-2002). In Denmark, 3.4 per cent of wells exceeded this limit. In Catalonia, between 2007 and 2010, Glyphosate was found in 41 per cent of 140 groundwater samples, with a maximum concentration of 2.5μg/liter.

The situation in the subsoil is even worse, and each rain increases Glyphosate concentrations in groundwater and drinking water, with contamination rates constantly rising over the years.
However, Glyphosate leftovers are only part of the organic contaminants present in the subsoil and groundwater. Other sources of organic pollution are found in railway ballast contaminated with, among others, used oil, lubricants and petroleum leftovers. Therefore, holistic solutions for vegetation control, ballast decontamination, subsoil and groundwater treatment are in great need.

Alpha Cleantec AG (ACT) is a Swiss technology company providing various safe, green, rapid, efficient, and cost-effective technologies to resolve environmental harms and hazards caused by human and industrial activities. The company offers one holistic solution package for the above mentioned three challenges. Vegetation Control (VC) process for efficient Glyphosate free vegetation control and Railway Ballast Oxidation (RBO) for ballast, subsoil, and groundwater decontamination. The technologies can be applied separately or as one global solution during one single vegetation control spraying. ACT is a certified technology provider operating internationally based on flexible business offers adapted to the specific requirements and constraints of local operators, e.g., license agreements.

VC solution is based on an environmentally friendly mixture of inorganic salts that generates concentrated (non-Glyphosate) herbicide. The salts penetrate the plant´s stem (absorption
by the plant), change in a first stage the ion balance inside the plant and, in the second stage, dehydrate the plant (water absorption), drying plant and roots. The material works as a non-selective herbicide or ‘total weedkiller’ that destroys in a non-selective manner all types of plant material with which they come in direct contact (contact herbicide), including a wide range of glyphosate-resistant species. The solution can be applied with standard market manual and automatic spraying tools (as used for Glyphosate-based materials). The company successfully completed compatibility studies with several manufacturers of spraying trains.

RBO is an in-situ physico-chemical technology based on the generation of superoxide radical that can simultaneously decompose organic pollutants and herbicide leftovers on the ballast surface, in subsoil and groundwater without excavation or replacement of the ballast. The solution can be combined and applied simultaneously with VC technology. The process efficiency was certified by independent laboratory tests carried out by TÜV Süd, Germany.

To date, the RBO process was tested in field tests in Switzerland, and the VC application is in a very advanced stage of piloting in Austria and Italy. ACT plans to carry out additional pilots in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, and the UK by the end of 2023. These technologies do not damage railway infrastructure and can be applied with existing spraying trains and tools as part of usual rail maintenance proceedings. The company is with great interest looking for new partners in the UK.

For more information please get in touch via the contact information below.

Tel: +49 (0) 6221 6492481
Email: info@alphacleantec.com
Visit: http://alphacleantec.com/contacts/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/alpha-cleantec-ag/about/
YouTube: https://youtu.be/iVjxCV-l6J8