The entire site will be excavated to a depth of one meter.  Meanwhile, there are already dozens of homes on the site

The entire site will be excavated to a depth of one meter. Meanwhile, there are already dozens of homes on the site © Kristof Vadino

Willebroek

The former site of the De Naeyer paper factory in Willebroek, where a housing project is currently being developed, is being completely remediated. Last summer a heavy PFAS contamination came to light. After an investigation by OVAM, it has now been decided to excavate the soil to a depth of one metre.

Theo Derkinderen

Today at 20:44

In July, a PFAS contamination was detected at the De Naeyer site, just next to the canal in Willebroek. A new residential area was created on the site in the past year. “After a soil contamination was identified, an extensive soil investigation was requested. The results show that there is pollution in the top layer. Spread over the entire residential area,” says Jan Verheyen of OVAM. “The pollution is in the top meter of the ground. It concerns soil that comes from other locations on the site. However, due to the earthmoving carried out to develop the site and the spread of the soils over the entire site, it is not possible to identify specific source zones with high concentrations.”

Since contamination has been identified on the entire site, it has been decided to remediate the entire site. “In concrete terms, the contaminated top layer is excavated and replaced with clean soil. These are areas with private habitation. Public spaces with a higher exposure risk, I am thinking of playgrounds, also qualify. In this way, the different routes of exposure to PFAS are tackled and the long-term health risks for residents are removed,” said OVAM.

Ovam pays

According to OVAM, the current exposure does not pose an acute health risk. Nevertheless, residents are advised to no regret measures to continue to apply. “Because this concerns contamination originating from past activities, OVAM officially bears the costs of this extensive soil remediation project in this project. And also because the site is still under development, we see an opportunity here to accelerate our work.”

An investigation will also be launched into the possible consequences of the exposure of the residents. “That’s why it’s useful to measure indoor dust. In this way we gain insight into an exposure route that is still relatively unknown. A number of houses will be specifically selected for this campaign,” says Verheyen.

The first remediation works should start at the beginning of 2022 and will take about six months.

Satisfied

Mayor Eddy Bevers (N-VA) reacted with relief on Wednesday evening. “Finally good news for our residents at the old factory site. I am a very satisfied mayor. On the one hand satisfied with the resolute approach and all the efforts already made. On the other hand, very satisfied with the decision to remediate this residential site as a matter of priority. The residents can now finally be reassured for a bright future in a healthy living environment,” he said.

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