Belgian case - Approach of a regional heavy metal pollution caused by non-ferrous industry

Belgium (Kempen region, NE Belgium)
Study carried out in different stepts since 1995
Flanders Waste Agency

The Kempen region, located in the north-eastern part of Flanders (Belgium) and the south-eastern part of the Netherlands, is polluted with heavy metals due to the former activities of non-ferro industry smelters. This pollution, developed during the last century, has a regional character and covers an area of 700 km2. Soil, ground and surface water are polluted with mainly zinc and cadmium (average regional groundwater concentrations for Zn vary between 500 – 3000 µg/l; for Cd concentrations are observed up to 20µg/l). Studies have been carried out in this area since 1995. As a result a good overview has been obtained of all the aspects related to the source, the fate and the risks of the pollution, resulting in a holistic approach including remedial actions and protective measures. An important part of the study focused on actual and potential risks. Hereby, current pollution risks and future changes in the pollution status of water bodies (groundwater and surface water) were highlighted. In this framework a groundwater model has been developed allowing to evaluate protective measures and to assess the status of water bodies in the area. Based on the model results, taking into account a selection of measures, an improvement of groundwater quality is clearly observed. These conclusion allowed the authorities to define a selection of measures such as cleaning up the source zones and monitoring the status of the quality of the water bodies in the area.

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